You thought the contraception war was over. On Friday the president announced a plan that would allow employees to be covered for contraception at no extra cost, but keep Catholic employers removed from the transaction. The Catholic Hospital Association likes the plan. Most Catholics like the plan, including 59 percent of Catholic women.
Nope. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are opposed, because they don't think anyone should have access to or use contraception.
The Republicans are aligning with the bishops on legislation to eliminate access to birth control, and otherwise target women's health. Sen. Roy Blount's (R-MO) pending amendment to a transportation bill would let any employer offer a health insurance plan that does not cover maternity care for unmarried women, claiming that such coverage violates the belief that sex and procreation are permissible only within the marital relationship. (Amendment No. 1520/HR 1179).
Any corporation's CEO could eliminate coverage for contraception, or any other benefit, based on his "moral convictions," possibly including concern for its cost. (S. 2092/H.R. 1179, Manchin-Rubio Bill)
The aim seems to be to inflame extremist voters while driving the rest of the electorate into an alienated apolitical stupor. Alternatively, the Bishops and the GOP may have taken a turn from Woody Allen's Bananas ("... all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check.") and Monty Python's "Every Sperm Is Sacred."
Some Oklahoma legislators are treating these proposals in the proper spirit. On February 6, the Republican-dominated Oklahoma legislature introduced the "Personhood Bill" SB 1433 to proclaim fertilized human eggs the same as grown humans. In response, Democratic State Senator Constance Johnson attached an amendment to the bill that would outlaw masturbation by men. All forms of sexual activity "in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman's vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child." She later removed the measure stating that she wanted to emphasize the bill's inherent absurdity as well as its sexist undertones.
What's next? Perhaps a mandatory Trophy Wife bill: People who cannot procreate would be prohibited from intimate relations, including women who have passed the age of fertility and men with low sperm counts. In the event of any resulting marital rearrangements, men who intend to pursue such relations would be required to pay financial support to their former wives, and attract a fertile young replacement.
Unfortunately, the Republican agenda is deadly serious and outrageous attacks on women's health are going to keep coming at us unless we speak out and make it clear that bashing women's health is not acceptable. Click here to tell your Senators to reject all extreme legislation that would take away women's access to birth control without a co-pay, and other needed health care.
Follow Ellen R. Shaffer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ershaffer