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A chance to air their nostalgia

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 1968In 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.

Comments

  1. Wylann says

    So these ‘documented negative effects of widely available birth control’….they cite peer reviewed studies, right?

    Right??

  2. AsqJames says

    Erm…that quote from the Beverly LaHaye Institute…erm, what?

    Firstly:

    the documented negative effects the widespread availability of contraceptives has on women’s ability to enter into and maintain desired marital relationships.

    I’d like to see those documents, because it seems to me the pill (along with reduced social stigma around pre-marital sex and motherhood outside marriage) reduced the likelihood of women being forced into, and maintaining, a marital relationship they didn’t desire.

    Oh, hang on. I’m looking at it wrong aren’t I? It’s not women’s desires that matter, it’s the god-bothering busybodies’.

    Secondly:

    This in turn leads to decreased emotional wellbeing and economic stability (out-of-wedlock childbearing being a chief predictor of female poverty)

    Motherhood outside wedlock is associated with poverty. This is an argument for denying women access to contraceptive services, because…we think there aren’t enough poor women? WTF?

  3. MyaR says

    My husband and I have been discussing this, and believe the point that maybe could’ve been made is that there is no valid secular legal or political argument against abortion. If you want to advocate for “life”, fine, but don’t pretend that there is valid legal cover for your stance. It should just be another flavor of prochoice argument.

    (Also, I was really irritated by some of the signs shown here, in particular “abortion exists because women have been historically oppressed” for general incoherence and the prolife alliance of gays and lesbians — this is not your issue, except in a possible edge case so far from the central issue that I can’t quite even come up with a full hypothetical.)

  4. Dunc says

    Motherhood outside wedlock is associated with poverty. This is an argument for denying women access to contraceptive services, because…

    Because without their slut pills, those slutty sluts will either keep their slutty legs shut, or marry the first guy who knocks them up. Which will obviously lead to hugs and puppies all round, because marriage. It’s well documented that married people tend to be better off, therefore forcing people to get married through unwanted pregnancy will automatically make them better off. That’s LOJIK! Checkmate, libtards.

  5. johnthedrunkard says

    Aren’t those mysterious ‘documented negative effects’ the same ones claimed for teaching scientifically valid biology? Gun control? Taxation? Keeping the Post Office open on Sunday?

    The secular argument against abortion:
    a) Women who have the power of choice in their lives are very unlikely to be trapped in an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion, at present, represents a ‘last chance’ at choice in situations where effective choice has been denied previously. Hence, as noted, the ‘anti abortion’ movement is the tip of an iceberg. The real agenda is to return women to some imagined Christian purdah.
    b) Abortion is a quasi-surgical intervention into the body of a women who does not wish to be pregnant. It is a ‘too much too late’ tool for birth control, and would be very rarely needed if women’s economic, political, social, and social conditions weren’t grossly limited by right-wing obstruction.

    Anyone who wishes to reduce the number of abortions in the world, SHOULD be on the front-lines fighting for women’s rights.

    At present, access to safe abortion is an absolute requirement for any civilized society. Rather like ‘legalizing’ witchcraft in order to stop witch-hunts. In the happy society of the golden future, witch-hunts, and the enforced pregnancy of dehumanized women, will be unthinkable.

  6. quixote says

    How do these goonies come UP with this stuff? “Opens the door to infidelity”? Hello? It was unknown before contraceptives? I mean, whuuuut?

  7. Blanche Quizno says

    “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.”

    Those other categories all include MEN. Women didn’t get the right to vote until dead last, over 50 years AFTER black men (including freed SLAVES, for goshsakes) were granted the right to vote. That should tell you something.

  8. Blanche Quizno says

    “because marriage. It’s well documented that married people tend to be better off, therefore forcing people to get married through unwanted pregnancy will automatically make them better off.”

    heh heh heh

    All pointing and giggling aside, I read an analysis way back, when Reagan was promoting marriage as the proper means of solving the problem of poverty. This analysis said that people who were capable of being good providers tended to marry others who were themselves equally capable of being good providers – college-educated people tended to marry other college-educated people; people with good jobs tended to marry other people with good jobs or at least with the qualifications for good jobs; and so on and so on.

    College-educated people with good jobs didn’t tend to marry high-school dropouts living in poverty, in other words.

    For those in poverty, the only available marriage candidates tend to be just as poor and just as dysfunctional. For single mothers, the available marriage candidates might have high rates of drug abuse, poor life skills, lack of education and job qualifications, crime problems, violent tendencies, etc. So marriage might make these single mothers and their offspring WORSE off.

    As far as the claim that marriage is “the fast track out of poverty”, in the Mexican-American immigrant community back then (Reagan presidency years), there were few out-of-wedlock births, yet there was widespread, entrenched poverty, despite high marriage rates. Unless people have something that qualifies them for good paying jobs, like education or job experience, marriage isn’t going to magically provide that. Poor people who marry will remain poor.

  9. Blanche Quizno says

    “there is no valid secular legal or political argument against abortion. If you want to advocate for “life”, fine, but don’t pretend that there is valid legal cover for your stance. It should just be another flavor of prochoice argument.”

    This is actually how it works out in real life. The studies show that more people now identify as “pro-life” than “pro-choice”, thanks to far-right Christians’ demonizing of the word “choice” (they’ve done the same with the word “atheist”, you’ll notice).

    Anyhow, approaching the 2012 elections, Republicans took note of this trend and decided it would be win for them to adopt a policy that would forbid all abortion. 100%. Full stop. No more abortions under any conditions. Because more people were identifying as “pro-life”, and “pro-life” meant “anti-abortion + no abortions whatsoever”, they’d get all those votes! YIPPEE!!

    But illustrating the danger of the “echo-chamber effect”, which is what you get when you surround yourself with yes-men, the Republicans failed to understand that the vast majority of those who identify as “pro-life” actually WANT abortion to be accessible under certain circumstances, typically incest, rape, and when the mother’s life is endangered. These “pro-life” people want women to be able to choose abortion in some cases, so that means they’re REALLY “pro-choice.” But they just don’t want to use that bad word, you see.

    And the Republicans lost – rather spectacularly :)

  10. Blanche Quizno says

    As far as “desired marital relationships” goes, there was an interesting article from January, entitled “Is Conservative Christianity Bad for Marriage? Research says yes. So why are conservative policy makers pushing marriage as a panacea for poverty?” http://www.thenation.com/article/178035/conservative-christianity-bad-marriage

    This article acknowledges that the single most reliable predictor of a marriage ending in divorce is that the happy couple are both YOUNG at their wedding. Conservative Christians who promote abstinence until marriage are effectively pushing young people to marry early, because of course young people want to have sex:

    “Now, marriage can be great—that’s why liberals spend so much time fighting for marriage equality. But encouraging people to get married before they’re ready and encouraging them to put off having sex until they wed is a recipe for family instability. ‘Clearly you can’t put people with few relationship skills and few resources together at a really young age and saddle them with children and expect them to survive,’ says Glass.

    The blue state model—marriage is delayed; responsible premarital sex is approved—simply works better. That means emphasizing sex education and access to contraception and abortion while letting go of the fantasy of the male-breadwinner family. It means accepting that abstinence until marriage wouldn’t be a useful goal even it was realistic. It means realizing, once and for all, that conservative family values don’t work to conserve actual families.”

  11. says

    I’m not the first person to ask this, but…

    All those leaders and spokespeople for for “family values”, dead-set against reproductive freedom — how many of them are married, and how many children do they have? A lot less than one per year of marriage, I’m betting. So either they don’t have sex, or “the documented negative effects [of] the widespread availability of contraceptives” not withstanding, they seem to be muddling through, like almost everybody else, using sensible family planning techniques. Hypocrites.

  12. theobromine says

    What bothers me most about the atheist anti-abortionists I have argued with is their support for making abortion illegal. I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer to the following challenges:

    1) Since the best way to reduce abortions is to provide sex education and promote the use of contraception, what are you doing in those areas?
    2) Since criminalizing abortion is much harder on the woman than it is on the man, how do you justify this inequity?
    3) Even if one grants “personhood” to a fetus, under what other circumstances is a person legally obligated to risk their life to sustain the life of another?

  13. MyaR says

    3) Even if one grants “personhood” to a fetus, under what other circumstances is a person legally obligated to risk their life to sustain the life of another?</blockquote

    This is the one that drives me craziest. You can register to be a bone marrow donor (not nearly as onerous medically and physically as carrying a pregnancy to term), which is effectively volunteering to donate your marrow if someone in need of a transplant is a match. But if the volunteer is a match, they still have to be asked again if they want to donate, and they can decide not to at any point in the process. If you do then agree to donate, and that recipient is in need of another donation, you still are not required to provide it and can still back out.

  14. rnilsson says

    Not only documented; documentaried! I just watched the movie “Philomena” yesterday and have a hard time trying not to weep. Tangentially connected, at least.
    I do wonder why it won no Oscars … ?

  15. rnilsson says

    Too moving for a movie? Too close to home?
    Dame Judy Dench, Steve Coogan and Sophie Kennedy Clark give tremendous acting.
    Martin Sixsmith wrote about himself (famous British journalist and spin-doctor).
    True story. Philomena Lee herself appeared on TV here last week. (Skavlan’s talkshow)

    I guess all the Oscar slots were already spoken for.

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