The National Coalition of American Nuns has announced their support for women’s right to access contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act as the Supreme Court prepares to hear the historic Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases. While the plaintiffs in these cases are Mennonites and evangelical Christians, opposition to the contraceptive mandate was largely spearheaded by the Catholic bishops. Several key cases of Catholic non-profits, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, are making their way through the lower courts and may well end up in the Supreme Court themselves.
“NCAN is dismayed that the Little Sisters of the Poor, the University of Notre Dame and other Catholic organizations are challenging the Affordable Care Act. Spurred on by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops these organizations are attempting to hold hostage all women by refusing insurance to them for contraceptives,” said the 2,000-member group in a statement.
“This has gotten out of hand,” Sister Donna Quinn, head of NCAN, told RD. “It isn’t ‘faith and freedom’ when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women. Now we have other Christian religions seeing what the bishops are doing and saying we will do likewise. It isn’t freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business.”
The nuns are seeking support for their stand through an online petition. The Rev. Debra Haffner of the Religious Institute is helping NCAN coordinate the effort. “When I saw the brave stand these nuns were taking on the mandate, I started to think about what we could do to amplify their voices. So we launched a social media campaign asking people to ‘Stand with the Nuns’,” she said.
“We really need to counter the idea that faith is opposed to family planning,” said Haffner, who’s also helping to coordinate a Faith Rally at the Supreme Court on March 25, the day of the oral arguments for the mandate challenges. “All too often the media only shows a Catholic bishop to offer the faith perspective. More than 14 major religious denominations have statements supporting birth control and birth control access. People need to understand that this is not only an affront to women’s moral agency but opens the door to denying a whole range of services, from other kinds of reproductive health care to services to LGBT people,” she said.
NCAN has a long history of reproductive justice and Catholic reform activism. Quinn has volunteered as an abortion clinic escort and was one of the leaders of a delegation of women religious to Rome 1994 to hold a parallel discussion about the role of women religious during the bishops’ synod on religious life, which largely excluded women.
By: Patricia Miller, Religion Dispatches, March 14, 2014
“Sending A Strong Message”: Oklahoma Judge Permanently Strikes Down State Restrictions On Emergency Contraception
An Oklahoma district court judge ruled late Wednesday to permanently strike down an unconstitutional state law restricting women and girls’ access to emergency contraception. Judge Lisa Davis found that the law violated the state’s “single-subject rule,” which prohibits legislators from addressing unrelated issues in one law.
Oklahoma politicians added a provision restricting women and girls’ access to a law focused on regulating health insurance benefit forms. The measure required women to provide proof of age in order to obtain emergency contraception, and required anyone under the age of 17 to have a prescription to access emergency contraception. Prior to the ruling striking down the measure, Oklahoma was one of nine states with laws restricting women’s access to Plan B One-Step and other generic emergency contraceptives.
“This unconstitutional provision was nothing more than an attempt by hostile politicians to stand in the way of science and cast aside their state’s constitution to block women’s access to safe and effective birth control,” said David Brown, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group behind the legal challenge.
“We hope the court’s ruling sends yet another strong message to politicians in Oklahoma that these underhanded tactics are as unconstitutional and deceptive as they are harmful to women in their state.”
In November, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear Oklahoma’s appeal seeking to reinstate its law banning medication abortions, which was also found to be unconstitutional by a lower court.
By: Katie McDonough, Salon, January 24, 2014
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus invited former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee to be the keynote speaker at the RNC’s winter meeting, but it appears that he regrets that decision:
Priebus responded to Huckabee’s comments, telling the Washington Post, “I don’t know what he was talking about. Sort of a goofy way of using some phrases. Not the way I would have phrased it.”
I don’t know what Mike Huckabee was talking about, either. When he was serving as governor, Huckabee signed a law mandating that health insurance plans provide contraceptive coverage, and he made no exceptions for religious institutions. And, despite the fact that his hero Jesus was quite clear that he had nothing but the harshest contempt for hypocrites, Huckabee is now behaving as if contraceptive coverage in health care plans is some kind of violation of people’s religious rights.
His actual comments were more than ‘goofy.’ They were nonsensical. I don’t know if he asks his nieces to refer to him as ‘Uncle Sugar,’ but I certainly hope not. The main thing is that he wants us to have a national discussion about contraception.
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America.”
I’m not sure that anyone knows quite what the hell that comment is supposed to mean. He later explained that “My point was to point out that Dems have put a laser-like focus on government funded birth control and given it more attention than cancer drugs.”
Does anyone think Huckabee’s point was that Democrats are not highlighting enough how ObamaCare is giving people access to life-saving cancer drugs?
I’ve tried to decipher Huckabee’s meaning and I’ve read other people’s attempts to explain his comments, but I think I’ll have to chalk it up to some kind of cultural misunderstanding. It’s kind of like the tension I feel between having total contempt for how Saudi Arabia treats women and religious freedom and my tolerance for different cultures having different laws and beliefs. Maybe your typical Saudi understands what Huckabee was trying to say, but I certainly don’t. I can hardly believe that I share the same country with the man.
As best as I can tell, he was saying that Republicans have enough respect for women to believe that they can remain chaste until marriage, as they should. Maybe ObamaCare should cover the expense of burkas. Would Huckabee support that?
By: Martin Longman, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 25, 2014
A few weeks ago, right after the dark clouds gathered over Chris Christie’s presidential prospects, some friends and I were having the usual Washington conversation of discussing the rest of the field. After we agreed that it was an awfully B-list bench, someone piped up: Hey, don’t forget Mike Huckabee! He’s losing all the weight!
Clearly, some of that vaporized body mass came out of his brain matter, based on his unhinged comments Wednesday at the Republican Party’s winter meeting. Discussing the GOP’s need to get more of the women’s vote, he said the Democratic Party tells women “they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government.”
He said this, amazingly, in a speech that, in his mind anyway, was all about how the Republican Party is the true friend of women: “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.”
Here we go again. What galaxy do these right-wing men live in? So now contraception is like welfare? I’m reading him right, right? This is what he said—in essence, that birth control, provided by people who think women can’t control their libidos, makes women “helpless.” It’s the culture of dependency again, but this time transferred from the ghetto to the uterus. The Democrats, I guess, want women to go out and have unrestrained sex, so Democrats can then go out and destroy America by distributing these sinful contraceptive devices. So women, you see, are not human beings with agency and volition about their sexuality in Huckabee Land. They’re nothing more than the cat’s paws of the godless, baby-killing Democrats, who want to keep them on the Democratic plantation. The Pill, the welfare check, the Earned Income Tax Credit—all the work of Satan, propagated by the party of Satan.
As with Todd Akin and other recent Republican men who’ve been such marvelous spokesmen for the female side, it’s just hard to believe that this offensive gibberish even came out of his mouth. And not in an interview, as was the case with Akin, who was caught off-guard, but in a prepared speech! How do these men come to these views?
Just yesterday I discovered an old news clip from late 2012, in which some bozo Ohio state legislator is being interviewed on Al Jazeera. He’s throwing lightning bolts around about how evil abortion is, and he’d really prefer if we could ban it all the time. Then the reporter asks: “What do you think makes a woman want to have an abortion?” This genius hems and haws and finally says: “I don’t know. It’s a question I’ve never even thought about.”
What can one say? The man is trying to ban abortion in the state of Ohio, and he’s never thought about why a woman might want one. Certainly he’d never actually asked a woman. That, I think, is what makes these right-wing men say these deranged things. They either never discuss these matters with women, or they discuss them only with women who are as right-wing and moralistic as they are and who don’t just speak as a normal, apolitical woman with the normal level of sexual desire and activity would. So they haven’t the slightest idea what regular women think, nor the slightest interest in it. That’s just incuriosity. But it’s an incuriosity that produces ignorance and intolerance, which is what the GOP specializes in these days.
The thing about Huckabee is that he used to hide this very well. I’d imagine that deep down, he’s as Old Testament fire-and-brimstone as they come—a biblical literalist, right down to Jonah living in the whale’s stomach, the whole schmear. But he managed not to come across that way. He cracked jokes. He liked reporters (a media-friendly conservative!). He played rock ’n’roll bass guitar, for gosh sakes. If he was a mullah, he was at least a good-natured one who didn’t seem threatening.
But after this speech, forget that. He’s just a mullah now. He’s mad at birth control, which virtually every woman uses and which has been legal in this country for 54 years! And there was no small dose of acid in his voice as he spit out the infamous sentences, and he looked mad. Now, he’s going to be lumped in with Akin and cited, and very rightly so, as Exhibit B (Akin is still A) in why the Republicans would just be better off not talking about women at all and living with a 12- to 14-point gender gap, because every time one of them opens his mouth it just increases.
Incidentally, his cluelessness Wednesday wasn’t limited to women. My colleague Ben Jacobs, who was there, tells me Huck rhapsodized about The Beatles, and how he once fantasized about being the “fifth Beatle” and delivered the opinion that they healed the country after Kennedy’s assassination. He has no idea what he’s talking about. They weren’t interested in “healing” anything. Quite the contrary, they started the revolution that split the country in two, the two sides that are still doing battle, and Huckabee sure ain’t on their side. Reactionary fundamentalists of Huckabee’s ilk despised The Beatles in 1964, and The Beatles—authority-haters and atheists one and all (except for George later, but that was very different), and Lord knows great believers in the powers of contraception—would have despised him. Besides which, they already had a pretty good bassist, Bub.
His rewriting of Beatles history is a minor transgression but it’s of a piece. These people live in a morally simplistic fantasy land that’s impervious to facts and to the very real complexities of life. And he’s reportedly thinking of seeking the GOP nomination again? Come to think of it, he’d be perfect.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 24, 2014
As you’ve heard, yesterday Mike Huckabee stepped up to the plate and smacked a stand-up double in the GOP’s ongoing effort to alienate every woman in America, when he said, “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.”
As expected, Huckabee quickly explained to his supporters who the real victim is here (“I am apparently the worst conservative ever or at least the most annoying one according to the left wingers in Washington today”), but the question is, why do they keep doing this? After all, every Republican knows by now that their party has a problem with women; Mitt Romney lost their votes by 11 points. The simple answer is that they can’t help themselves, but more specifically, it’s a combination of ignorance, contempt, and Puritan morality that inevitably leads to these eruptions. And it’s going to keep happening. Let’s look at the particulars:
Ignorance: These kinds of statements tend to come from older conservative men who have no idea how ladyparts work, and really don’t want to know. That extends to contraception, which as far as they’re concerned is something that is women’s responsibility and therefore there’s no need to understand it. That accounts for the bizarrely widespread belief that all forms of contraception work like condoms: a one-use kind of thing that is employed whenever sex is desired. Which is why Rush Limbaugh said that Sandra Fluke was obviously a “slut” if she wanted contraception to be covered by the insurance she was paying for, because “She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.” And Huckabee believes that you only need birth control every month if you have a rampaging libido, while if you were more chaste, it would be something that would sit at the back of the cabinet, seldom brought out but there if necessary, like that little container of tumeric you once bought for a particularly exotic recipe and might some day use again.
Since Mike Huckabee doesn’t have 18 kids, I’m guessing his wife has used contraception throughout their marriage. But a Baptist minister and his wife have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement when it comes to that sort of thing, just like millions of other couples, which enables him to continue believing that only a fallen woman would need to take a contraceptive pill every doggone day like she was some kind of insatiable sex machine who barely had time to cook his food and do his laundry in between all that rutting. Which brings us to…
Beliefs about sin: The morality clearly reflected in these statements is that sex is inherently sinful. It’s a tiny bit sinful for the man—the kind of thing you might feel a little guilty about, but you can get over quickly—but it’s hugely sinful for the woman. An unwanted pregnancy is the just punishment a woman receives for having sex, and a virtuous woman doesn’t have sex except for those rare occasions when her husband wants to impregnate her. That’s why Huckabee can say—sincerely, I’m sure—that it’s an insult for Democrats to say women should have access to contraception, because that’s the same as saying women lack virtue. Women who don’t need contraception “are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.”
The conception of sex as inherently sinful drives pretty much every conservative policy position that touches on sex, perhaps most notably the support for abstinence-only sex education. The fact that abstinence-only sex education has been shown over and over to fail is of only passing concern to them, because what they want out of sex education isn’t so much practical things like a reduction in teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs, but a moral statement: sex is bad. If you talk to kids about sex without telling them it’s bad, you’ve cooperated with immorality. Conservatives seem to be constitutionally unable to discuss anything that touches on sex without including some kind of moral condemnation in everything they say.
Tone-deafness: Huckabee’s position is that saying “Democrats are treating women like dirty sluts by saying they should have access to birth control!” is very, very different from just saying women are dirty sluts. He feels he’s been falsely accused of saying the latter, when he was really just saying the former. I’m sure that he thinks that if women just understood the full context of his statement, they’d realize he respects and honors them. What he doesn’t get is that women actually want and need contraception, and 99 percent of women who have had sex have used some form of contraception at some point in their lives. So when he tells them that contraception is for sluts, what they hear isn’t “Because I care for you, I don’t want you to become a slut,” what they hear is, “You’re a slut.”
This seems to come up again and again: Republicans think they’re talking to a nation of nuns, when in reality they’re talking to actual women whose lives and experiences are different from what Republicans imagine them to be. If you told them that, guess what, your wife uses contraception, and so does your sister, and so does your daughter, and not only that, so did your mom, they’d cry “Nuh-uh!” and stick their fingers in their ears.
Which is why this is going to keep happening. Maybe Republicans can be convinced to steer clear of saying appalling things about rape, but the subject of contraception is going to keep coming up because of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that it be included in insurance plans. And every time it does, they’re going to keep pushing women away. They can’t help themselves.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 24, 2014