The Gallup poll from May says a lot about what is at stake politically on the issue of birth control: It's a slam-dunk winner for anyone who supports it. Birth control is considered morally acceptable by 90 percent of Americans. Not only that. It is considered morally acceptable by 87 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Catholics and 89 percent of independents, and 90 percent of Democrats and Americans overall.
In March, a Bloomberg poll even found majority support for the Obama administration policy of requiring health insurance plans to cover contraception without co-payments or deductibles, just like any other preventive health benefit. This policy took effect on Aug. 1, along with coverage for seven other key preventive health services for women.
These views have not stopped the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some zealous religious employers from working overtime to try to reframe the issue as something other than basic, fundamental health care. And yes, while these groups are on the wrong side of the law and public opinion, they do have a weekly pulpit, literally, for their damaging, misogynist views.
But the Obama administration is perpetuating a cloak of shame around the issue that is stifling the ability of women in particular, and society at large, from expressing healthy, open views about our actual healthy sexual practices.
Here for example is the administration's description of the new benefit in the July 31 Huffington Post: "FDA-approved contraceptive products, which have proven health benefits like a reduced risk of cancer and protecting against osteoporosis."
For one thing, the association between the pill and cancer is more complicated than that. (Maybe increases risks for some kinds; decreases for others.)
But more importantly: the main health benefit of contraception is that it gives us control over whether and when to become pregnant and bear children. This in turn improves women's physical health and our opportunities for independence, autonomy, and emotionally healthy families.
State legislatures around the country, and Congress on an almost daily basis, are using women's rights and our sexuality as a punching bag. It may be political theater but it has real consequences for our lives. In fact 99 percent of sexually active Americans have used birth control; but til now, around 50 percent of U.S. pregnancies have been unintended, a sign that too many women can't afford contraceptives or are otherwise discouraged from using then.
We can't sit by while our everyday practices are redefined as the "love that dare not speak its name." The Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign has posted some infographics that describe the new health benefits. Post them. Speak up. You have support. Go find it.