HB2625, the anti-contraception bill, passed the AZ House yesterday on a mostly party line vote with the recommendation to adopt Senate amendments that would limit the scope of employer exemptions to the mandate to cover birth control in health plans. If those amendments are adopted (we’ll see) then only employers with a religious mission or affiliation will be able to exclude birth control from health plans. I and others have already explained at length why this is an unconstitutional establishment of a preferred religious belief and gender discrimination. Laurie Roberts thinks that HB2536, with the narrower exemptions, is “much improved”.
This compromise doesn’t restrict my freedom as a woman. If anything, it would spur me to exercise my freedom … to work for people who believe in (or at least cover) sound family planning. Under this bill, that would include probably 99 percent of all Arizona employers.
If you still choose to believe that this is merely a “religious freedom” issue and not an attack on women, not only do I have some sweet oceanview property in North Central Phoenix to sell you, but I’d also like to direct you to the actual words of social conservatives who are telling you exactly what is motivating them to push for legislation limiting contraception. No, really, social conservatives didn’t randomly select “birth control” out of all possible medical treatments to be the thing on which to have a battle over the First Amendment and health care.
Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,”
Santorum’s out of the Presidential race but the war on women continues apace at the state level. The Arizona Senate is set to vote on defunding Planned Parenthood and anti-choicers all over the country are attacking contraception, often by pretending that commonly used birth control methods are “abortifacients”. That’s been the go-to claim of anti-choicers when opposing birth control in public for years now but recently they’ve added “religious freedom” to their repertoire.”Religious freedom” is intended to be a conversation-stopper and to allow social conservatives to act offended and like you’re attacking their faith when you challenge their attempts to limit your access to birth control.
But when religious conservatives aren’t trying to obfuscate their legislative agenda they often come right out and tell you what they’re after. Ross Douthat, the GenX moral scold of the NYT editorial section, has a new book out called Bad Religion, in which he pontificates about how many Americans these days are practicing (you guessed it) bad religion. Douthat and Salon’s Will Saletan have been doing a back-and-forth blog dialog on theological and moral matters. In one of Douthat’s responses he goes on and on about how rilly rilly bad birth control is, blaming it for a host of what he considers to be grievous social ills. He ends with the theological case for limiting birth control:
This doesn’t mean that I think Christians should be campaigning against contraception, necessarily. (And to return to your initial question, no, I don’t think the kind of small-o Christian orthodoxy that I’m writing about in the book requires agreement with the specifics of my own church’s moral teaching on the issue.) Certainly the pill shall always be with us, and most people—most Christians, most Catholics—will use birth control of some form at some time in almost any future I can imagine. But it matters how that use is shaped and influenced, and here I think any Christianity worth its salt needs to stand clearly for the principle that—as the future pope put it, in the interview I quoted above—“we cannot resolve great moral problems simply with techniques, with chemistry, but must solve them morally, with a life-style.” In the conversation about what a healthy sexual lifestyle should look like, I think it’s entirely appropriate for the Christian emphasis to be on encouraging people to be more morally discerning about whom they sleep with, and when, rather than focusing on technologies that promise (falsely, based on the record of the last few decades) to make such moral discernment unnecessary.
This is typical anti-choicery on birth control, albeit with an intellectual gloss on it. Most of them aren’t for banning contraception outright because, as Douthat acknowledges, most of them use it themselves. They’re using it in the “right” way, though. But if you still think religious conservatives are simply arguing that churches should instruct their own followers in sexual morality then ask yourself why, just to use one example, they’re so keen on getting abstinence-only sex ed into the public schools. As I’ve pointed out numerous times before, policing all women’s sexuality is the top priority of social conservatism. Do not underestimate the extent of the victories church leaders and Center for Arizona Policy have won with a right wing legislature at their beck and call. And don’t think for one second they won’t be back next year to go further.