Emily Bazelon at Slate takes a look at some of the more…eccentric far-right arguments in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood briefs against the Obamacare rule that employers must provide contraception coverage as part of their health care plans.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the companies whose suits the Supreme Court will hear later this month, have been careful to frame their objections narrowly. They’re not refusing to pay for all birth control. They just don’t want to fund “items” like the morning-after pill and the IUD, which they say effectively cause abortion by preventing a fertilized embryo from implanting in the uterus. Many scientists say that’s not true. But the companies are trying to take a limited, reasonable-minds-may-differ position.
Naturally; they have a better shot that way. This is precisely why so many people are so annoyed with Dave Silverman for saying there is a secular argument against abortion rights while there is no secular argument against LGBT rights or same-sex marriage. I don’t think he meant to imply that there is a reasonable or good secular argument against abortion rights, but many people have argued that that’s beside the point, because the effect of making an exception of abortion rights is the same as if he had just plain said there is a good, reasonable argument against abortion rights. Now that Hemant Mehta has seen fit to publish a secular argument against abortion rights on his blog, without dissent or other comment, I think they’re probably right. People have pointedly wondered if he would publish a guest post giving a secular argument for racism or against LGBT rights, and asked why women’s rights are so much more up for grabs than other kinds of rights are.
Back to Hobby Lobby.
The government has medical heavyweights on its side, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But Hobby Lobby has more briefs—the majority of a total of more than 80 briefs, by my count, were filed by conservative groups—and their allies have written the sentences that jump off the page. Despite how the companies themselves have carefully crafted their case, the briefs from their supporters provide a refresher course in how fundamentalists get from here to there. They are full of revelations.
Bazelon summarizes the secular and medical reasons contraception is good for women; why the ability to plan whether and when to get pregnant makes women better off. Then for the other way of looking at it.
But the American Freedom Law Center, which says it “defends America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values,” sees contraception, instead, as Pope Paul VI did in 1968. In its brief, AFLC quotes the former pope like so:
It has come to pass that the widespread use of contraceptives has indeed harmed women physically, emotionally, morally, and spiritually — and has, in many respects, reduced her to the “mere instrument for the satisfaction of [man’s] own desires.” Consequently, the promotion of contraceptive services — the very goal of the challenged mandate — harms not only women, but it harms society in general by “open[ing] wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.”
Because sex. If there is contraception, then sex becomes just sex – just pleasure, just fun, just sensation – and that can’t be right, because sex is filthy. Unless the end result of it is a darling little baby whether you want one or not.
The Beverly LaHaye Institute, the research arm of Concerned Women for America, drives home this point, arguing that the government should have considered:
the documented negative effects the widespread availability of contraceptives has on women’s ability to enter into and maintain desired marital relationships. This in turn leads to decreased emotional wellbeing and economic stability (out-of-wedlock childbearing being a chief predictor of female poverty), as well as deleterious physical health consequences arising from, inter alia, sexually transmitted infections and domestic violence.
Because sex sex sex, dammit! If sex isn’t punished with pregnancy, then it becomes Too Much Fun and everything goes to hell!
If it sounds like I’m describing a 1960s enraged sermon about the pill, I guess that’s the point: I could be. The Hobby Lobby case has given the groups that want to go back to prepill days a chance to air their nostalgia. And they want the Supreme Court to know that all women don’t share the view that controlling one’s body, with regard to the deep, life-altering question of when to be pregnant, is helpful and freeing.
And they want all of us to live according to that benighted view.