Kudos to the House Oversight and Government Reform committee for assembling a much needed hearing on the infamous contraception issue and religious liberty. Five esteemed men delivered their well-informed positions on women's health, and Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) put freedom before politics and made sure to block any woman from testifying.
Imagine that. Following the Catholic Church's declaration of war on contraception, the Republican-controlled House decided to delve deeper into the issue of women's health. Fair enough. But where were the women?
Perhaps no one captured it better than House minority leader Nancy Pelosi: "Imagine having a panel on women's health and they don't have any women on the panel. Duh."
Just recently, President Obama declared that insurance plans for employees of religiously-affiliated institutions will be required to cover contraceptives. Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt. The Catholic Church felt otherwise, and quickly shot back. The President compromised, and decided to shift the cost onto the insurance companies rather than the hospital or university. That, still, was not good enough.
But, as many prominent Republican leaders insist, this really isn't about contraception. Instead, according to Representative Paul Ryan, "it's about violating our first amendment rights to a religious freedom."
Just to clarify: it's an infringement on liberty to allow people to decide whether or not they wish to use contraceptives. But is is not an infringement on liberty to allow employers to exempt themselves from federal law and deny people contraceptives. If it's really not about contraception -- try telling that to the thousands of women who will no longer have access to the care they need.
The President's plan, to be clear, requires no one to use contraception. It simply recognizes that religiously-affiliated hospitals and universities, for example, employ many non-Catholic women, and that they should not be denied care simply because their employer has a religious objection. If people could exempt themselves from laws they disagree with, could I just stop paying taxes?
In fact, using contraception may not even be a religious issue after all. According to a widely-quoted study by the Guttmacher Institute, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptives sometime throughout their life. If you ask women, it's really not an issue at all. But thanks to Representative Issa and the Catholic Church at large, the desires and experiences of women have been effectively suppressed, and seemingly mean nothing to them at all.
Which is why, in honor of Ms. Pelosi's candid response, I am proposing the Demolishing Unenlightened Hegemony, or DUH, Act. The DUH Act would make it illegal for men to speak on the issue of women's health. For too long, men have dominated the discussion over an issue that has no effect on them. Many women, who depend on contraception, have been kept quiet long enough.
So maybe it isn't about contraception -- to men, at least. Maybe it is about religious liberty -- even though virtually every Catholic woman disagrees. But none of that matters, because no one knows better than those brilliant men. Duh.
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