The Week in Review: The Battle Over Birth Control
Kirsten Smith ’13
In the past week, Republican Presidential candidates have caused quite an uproar over contraception. In 1965, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Griswold v. Connecticut that prohibited a state from outlawing the use of contraception. GOP candidate Rick Santorum has publicly announced his desire to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in this case. In recent weeks, it has become clear that the Republican right intends to address the issue of contraception in their social agenda. The argument pits those who believe contraception should be entirely covered by health care plans, as President Obama has suggested, against those who argue that this infringes upon religious freedoms. The issue with the Obama administration’s plan arises when an organization or company is religiously affiliated and on a moral level refuses to supply and cover the cost of contraception through their health benefits.
Unsurprisingly, the latest developments have elicited an outcry from American women who feel that their reproductive rights are being infringed upon. In a Politico editorial, Joanne Keenan describes the potential for a new voting bloc called the “birth control moms.” The article delves into both sides of the contraception debate and women’s opinions on the issue. On one side, Democratic female scholars and analysts have discussed the impact of this agenda on female voters in the upcoming election. Many feel that if Republicans continue to threaten women’s health, female voters will be likely to back President Barack Obama in his re-election campaign. However, on the alternative side, Republicans argue that women voters recognize that the argument about contraception is related to the protection of religious freedoms. Conservatives believe that the debate is not about women’s health but about basic religious liberty.
In addition to the main issue, many female voters were insulted by the House of Representative’s manner of handling the situation. Last Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing to discuss the Obama administration’s contraception mandate with an all male panel. J. Lester Feder of Politico compares the male-dominated hearing to a similar case, that of Anita Hill. In 1991, Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas faced sexual harassment allegations from Anita Hill and an all male Senate Judiciary Committee was responsible for the questioning. This incident drew women voters to the polls and it is widely believed that the current topic of contraceptive coverage could do the same in favor of President Obama. American female voters would at least appreciate the inclusion of women in hearings pertaining to women’s health, no matter if they are liberal or conservative.
Women should be involved in debates about a topic so pertinent to women’s health. Michael Kieschnick, in an editorial for The Huffington Post, describes his feelings on this issue as a father of a young adult daughter. In Mr. Kieschnick’s opinion, it is a matter of whom he trusts and as he says, “I trust them [his children] to make thoughtful moral choices about contraception and sexuality far more than I trust John Boehner, Rick Santorum, or the (all male) parade of Catholic bishops.” Mr. Kieschnick understandably argues that all people should have the fundamental right to make their own sexual choices, and not have to follow the decisions of a select few powerful men.