The New Face of Contraception

There have been so many voices involved on the issue of birth control that it’s hard to separate truth from friction, but I’ll try.

To begin with, the mandate to have religious-based employers provide coverage for employees as part of their health plans has its roots in what most people refer to as “Obamacare.” The legislation is actually called The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also called The Affordable Care Act) whose purpose is, quite simply, to make healthcare easier and more affordable to all Americans.

Let me start by saying that it’s not a perfect piece of legislation. Few things are, but it is an important step with the goal of achieving a much need overhaul of the healthcare system in the U.S.; a system, one doctor told me likens dealing with private insurers to “dealing with a legalized version of the mafia.”

According to a heavily footnoted entry in Wikipedia, “With the exception of employees of churches and other houses of worship, the act applies to employees and students at institutions such as Catholic hospitals, Catholic Charities, Catholic universities, and other enterprises owned or controlled by religious organizations which oppose contraception on moral grounds. Regulations made under the act rely on the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine which concluded that birth control is medically necessary ‘to ensure women’s health and well-being.’ ”

Nonetheless, a number of high-ranking religious officials from various faiths regard the regulations as a “direct attack on religious liberty.”

In truth, The Affordable Care Act was intended to help both men and women across all socio-economic segments of society. It was never intended to curtail religious freedom.

“The Obama administration proposed changes in response to the criticism,” Wikipedia writes. “Under the proposed new regulation, birth control medication would be provided by the insurers, without direct involvement by the religious organization. The Catholic Health Association accepted this compromise. CEO Carol Keehan stated, ‘The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.’

“The vice president of Catholic identity and mission at Mount St. Mary’s University, Stuart Swetland, said, ‘It shows [Obama] and the administration is listening to our concerns,’ but reserved the right to ‘examine the details.’ However, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continued to oppose the regulation, saying that the regulation still requires Catholics in the insurance industry to violate their consciences.”

According to a recent Gallup poll (Feb. 24), “48% of all Americans say they sympathize more with the views of religious leaders, while 45% sympathize more with the Obama administration.”

However, a NY Times/CBS News poll (Feb. 13) “found most voters support the new federal directive that health insurance plans provide coverage for birth control.” 59 percent said they support the federal requirement versus 34 percent who don’t. Of that group, 57 percent of all Catholics support the requirement, while only 43 percent of Evangelical voters do.

Then we have Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorumweighing in about “the dangers of contraception…. It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act.”

For all his talk about religious freedom, Mr. Santorum seems to suggest that his belief should apply to all of us. That’s disturbing.

Then we have the most put-upon victim in this whole morality play, Georgetown University law student and acknowledged feminine activist Sandra Fluke who was originally supposed to testify before a congressional hearing on contraceptives but was denied (Committee Chair Darrell Issa said her name was submitted too late), only to testify before a group of Democrats in the House.

“Without insurance coverage,” Fluke said, “contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary. Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy…

“One student told us that she knew birth control wasn’t covered, and she assumed that’s how Georgetown’s insurance handled all of women’s sexual healthcare, so when she was raped, she didn’t go to the doctor even to be examined or tested for sexually transmitted infections because she thought insurance wasn’t going to cover something like that, something that was related to a woman’s reproductive health. As one student put it, ‘this policy communicates to female students that our school doesn’t understand our needs.’…”

This brings us to the exciting arc of our little play. Twirling-mustache notwithstanding, he’s my savior, my new BFF!

Just when you think Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on a cup of coffee, much less a budget, Rush Limbaugh rides to the rescue to unite BOTH sides.

On his radio show, (Feb. 29) Limbaugh loudly declared, “What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex… She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception.”

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner said, “This kind of direct attack on a private citizen is unacceptable. Mr. Limbaugh is as free as any American to speak his mind about the political and social issues of our time, but using his radio show as a means for blatantly insulting a hard-working American with obscene and indecent language because he disagrees with her personal choices is an abuse of the public airwaves.”

Even President Obama showed support in a personal call to Fluke.

When was the last time the two leaders of opposing parties agreed on anything?

But wait… there’s more!

Due to all the public uproar, (not to mention that six sponsors of Limbaugh’s show pulled their advertising), Maha Rushie issued an apology: “My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir,” Limbaugh said in a statement on his website. “I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

Sincere?

On CNN’s Reliable Sources Sunday, conservative and former speech writer for President George W. Bush, David Frum said “It was about the most graceless apology ever.”

In my book, SHAMELESS, about the seedy and unethical tactics practiced by the three most listened-to political commentators – Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck – I pointed out that while many refer to Limbaugh as an entertainer, there are untold numbers who listen to Limbaugh for other reasons.

“JANICE: Merry Christmas, and thank you Rush for keeping us informed.”

Janice and millions like her, rely on Limbaugh to keep them “informed.”

Yes, we have free speech, but it does not give anyone the right to knowingly inflame the emotions and passions of individuals predisposed to bigotry.

“If the Glenn Becks, Ann Coulters, and Rush Limbaughs of opinion media,” I wrote in SHAMELESS, “are unwilling to stand up and stand for the best in this country through passionate, yet rational debate, then all of us can stand up and tell them, ‘Your collective 45 minutes is up. It’s time to get a real job!’ ”

When the bullies of ignorance and intolerance rise up, each of us has a duty to call them out. It’s time to tell Limbaugh’s sponsors to end the hate speech! It’s time to pull the plug on Rush Limbaugh.

As for The Affordable Healthcare Act – a majority of states, organizations and individuals have filed lawsuits challenging its constitutionality. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments later this month with a decision due at the end of June.

Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy election.

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