I got into an argument with a lawyer on Facebook yesterday. The subject was the argument over the religious exemption for requirements for insurance coverage for contraception.
He trotted out all the usual responses to Sandra Fluke: having sex has consequences, and she needs to bear the potential costs herself rather than having religious organizations cover the bill.* After all, she chose to attend Georgetown (a Catholic university).
I responded with the examples I used in a previous post, and mentioned that any person who got a job offer from a Catholic organization might well take it — the job market is a bear right now.
He had claimed that women were being denied coverage but not access. That is the sort of analysis that wins you points on the bar exam.
Unfortunately, the real world is not a law school test. For poor women, saying that access and affordability are separate issues is, in legal parlance, a distinction without a difference. If you cannot afford things (and if you are in real financial straits, it is amazing what you cannot afford, and just how tight that money gets), they are as inaccessible as if they were outlawed. (He then said that poor women can go to Planned Parenthood, quite ignoring the fact that the same people fighting for this religious exemption are trying to close down Planned Parenthood.)
I then replied that his characterization of me as “emotional” was insulting. But the truth is I am emotional.. I am ANGRY.
It has not been too long since this would have been an issue for me. I could afford to cover contraception if I had to, but there are women who would have difficulty. And yes, compared to other things contraception is relatively inexpensive, but there are women who count on every dime to feed their kids or pay rent. (Graduate students, for example. When the Rocket Scientist was a graduate student, there were weeks we went to visit his parents so that we could get leftovers to eat for two or three days. Once, we ate peanut butter for dinner for a week.)
I am fighting this not for myself, whom it does not affect, but for my nieces. For the daughters of friends. For my future daughters-in-law. I am joining with other women to help protect our own.
Whereas this single male lawyer can sit in his ivory tower, surrounded by his white male privilege, and presume to lecture me and other women about our “responsibilities.” And I know that he does not refrain from sex out of concern for his “responsibilities.”
Pregnancy is a medical condition, a very serious one at that. The dangers of pregnancy outweigh those of legal abortion, and definitely of contraception. Contraception is prevention of that medical condition. That some women choose — or actively want — that condition is besides the point.
And the whole debate ignores one important thing: if you argue that contraception should not be covered, you are saying that sex is not an important part of mental and physical health. And if that is the case, you damned well should be arguing just as hard that Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs should not be covered, unless you want to take the position that it is only men who should be entitled to a healthy sex life.
* It’s really the insurance companies, but no matter. I don’t know, but my hunch is that insurance companies would much rather cover contraception than pregnancy: preventing pregnancy is much cheaper than paying for it. Pregnancy is an expensive proposition.