Now is the time to keep fighting for women’s rights in the face of Supreme Court misfires

birth-control-gumball-hobby-lobby-scotus-638x424I am a pretty unflappable person but I was enraged by last week’s Supreme Court (#SCOTUS) decisions that blatantly discriminated against women. I am not sure who I am more angry at: the men on the Supreme Court who invented specious religious rights to corporations, in and doing so elevated those rights above the religious, moral, equal and self-autonomous rights of women; or women who buy into the arguments that “nobody owes you birth control–if you don’t like it, get a job somewhere else.” As if in this fragile economy, that is even an option! But women should not be willing to be marginalized in our health care. Contraception is an essential part of women’s health care, and to ask that it is covered in health insurance is not a free ride, it is giving us the health care we deserve and have paid for.

It is not in any woman’s self-interest to side with blatant sex discrimination and I wonder what it would take to change those women’s minds. Would it help to know that Hobby Lobby is incredibly hypocritical in the way they are approaching the issue of contraception? Hobby Lobby is against forms of female contraception that they SAY is equivalent to abortion, which is just not at all scientifically true. Preventing a fertilized egg from implanting is not an abortion, and that is not even how hormonal birth controls and IUDs work. The fact that the Supreme Court specifically said that the religious beliefs do not have to be true, but just sincerely held, to be protected is just another mind-blowing aspect of this case.

But back to Hobby Lobby’s hypocrisy: 3/4 of its employee investment fund options include investing in companies that include contraception and abortion services. If Hobby Lobby offering employees health insurance that the employees and doctors may independently choose to implement women’s health care including contraception is too immoral/involved for Hobby Lobby, how could it possibly be okay to offer Hobby Lobby employee investment plans that fund other companies that provide contraception and abortion?

And, Hobby Lobby covers vasectomies and Viagra for men. Don’t tell me that the only difference here is that neither of these involves a fertilized egg–and Viagra use could definitely lead to the formation of fertilized eggs and unplanned pregnancies, by the way. The difference is that Viagra and vasectomies are about men’s sexuality, which conservatives don’t feel the need to control and regulate. And I believe that is the true heart of this issue and debate: conservatives are wiling to let men have sex without consequence (including procuring abortions for their wives and girlfriends when needed, while trying to ban abortion for all other women), but need to control and women’s sexual behavior with punitive, restrictive policies.

I can only hope that the fact that this argument is coming down to birth control–something that almost all American women use, regardless of their political or religious affiliations–will keep this issue into the spotlight for a long time. I don’t like the argument that birth control can be prescribed for all sorts of medical reasons. That is certainly true, and highlights the personal nature of discussions between a doctor and a woman (none of her employer’s damn business), but I hope American women can stand up and say, “I am in favor of birth control because it allows me to have autonomy and power in my life. It allows me to plan my life path and develop a career in ways that are not possible without contraception. It allows me to be a better mother by planning the size of my family.”

Your reasons may be slightly different, but whatever they are I truly hope you will stand up and own them.

Recent coverage of the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decisions. This is a rapidly evolving story and I have not really addressed the most recent decision about Wheaton College in this blog post. Let’s just say the Supreme Court took its Hobby Lobby decision early in the week and both made it worse and contradicted itself on Thursday with the Wheaton College decision:

13 Reactions to the Hobby Lobby Case That Are Completely Misinformed by Jill Filipovic via Cosmo. (Best single article I have seen about this case.)

Supreme Court Decisions: Religious Freedom and Public Unions, The Diane Rehm Show, July 1. Excellent, informed discussion that brought together a variety of panelists and NPR Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg.

The religious right’s No. 1 obsession: Policing women’s sex lives by any means necessary by Amanda Marcotta via Salon

3/4 of Hobby Lobby’s investment funds include contraception, abortion services
by Cory Doctorow via BoingBoing

Conservative Women Also Use Birth Control: The Hobby Lobby Decision Hurts All Women by H. A. Goodman via HuffPo

Sandra Fluke is my heroine. Rush Limbaugh is an idiot.

What more can be said about what a despicable person Rush Limbaugh is? Limbaugh’s unfounded, profane diatribe against Sandra Fluke, who had the courage to insist on testifying to Congress about women’s heath and access to birth control, lays bare the utter misogyny that has roared to life in this current election season. If anyone wonders why feminists can seem “militant,” well here it is, a coordinated war against women–we need to be on guard and fight back. Perhaps calling these outbursts an assault against women is even more relatable–who among us has not felt vulnerable at one time or another? And here was Sandra Fluke, speaking truth to power, and what does she get for her forthright insistence on raising her voice? Being called a “slut” and a “prostitute” for speaking up for birth control.

Well, Rush, news flash–almost all American women use birth control, so if you are calling Sandra Fluke a slut, you are calling us all sluts.

Honestly, for the first time in my life I think I can really feel all the way to my core that someone’s name calling reflects only on them. No matter what insults anyone slings, I will be on Sandra Fluke’s side in this fight.

And, isn’t it interesting that radically conservative men say they are SO concerned about free speech and the First Amendment, yet look at how they treat a woman who dares to speak her mind and say things they don’t want to hear.

It is time for women to stand together and stand up against this hateful speech, policy and action aimed at destroying women’s rights, autonomy and power. 2012 is an election year in full swing and it’s a crucial time to speak our minds, take action, and elect leaders who will represent our interests, our heath and our rights.

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Why I can’t afford to have another baby as a member of the sandwich generation

This week I am truly seething just thinking about the efforts to restrict women’s access to contraception. Wasn’t this a battle we fought and won almost 50 years ago? Who are old white men to dictate a woman’s reproductive choices? The talking heads, pundits, policymakers and Bishops sure don’t appear to have many women among them.

As for policy I would say emphatically that if you are in a position of providing health care or health insurance, you must provide all of the safe and legal reproductive health care that a woman or man would need. For women in particular, reproductive health care is often our main need for health care and the issue that gets us into the doctor’s office on a regular basis. The truth is that women have all sorts of reasons for their reproductive choices, and I believe firmly that none of these decisions should be anyone else’s business besides a woman and her doctor and any family and friends she chooses to involve.

You would think that at age 43 and married for 15 years, this might be a hypothetical issue for me, or one that I would only be worried about for my daughter’s generation, but it’s not. In my case, it has been incredibly clear to me lately that I cannot afford to have another child. Not for financial reasons, but because of where I am in my life and the incredible pressures I have been under. For the past two years, I have been not a “stay-at-home Mom” but rather practically a “stay-at-home-adult-caregiving daughter.” Starting in March 2010, my life as I knew it started to fall apart. My father fell ill suddenly and needed intense attention (especially since my parents were divorced and I am an only child), then immediately after I had gotten him moved and settled, my mother got critically ill and lived only seven weeks before passing away. I took care of my mother for those intense seven weeks, which was both an honor and a sad, immense life milestone. Some days, I feel like I will always divide my life into Before and After losing my mother, who was my confidante, support system and my best friend. And, in addition to the emotional transitions, a year and a half later, I am still finishing up my work as the executor of her estate. And now, my husband is learning what it means to be a sandwich-generation son averting a crisis by finding care for his mother and helping her relocate nearby.

All the caregiving energy I have is going into my family members including my father and mother-in-law, as well as my daughter. I cannot afford the stress, physical demands, or sleep loss of mothering another child. I am 43 and I am moving on to another stage of my life, and I am thrilled to be the mother of an almost-teenager. I can’t imagine starting all over with another baby until I am ready to be a grandma, a decade or more from now. And ironically, my husband and I would have welcomed a second child with open arms up until I turned 40, but we were apparently suffering from “secondary infertility,” which means that we had no trouble getting pregnant the first time (3 months of trying), but were never able to get pregnant a second time (5 years of trying). I say ironically, because the medical consensus is that even if we were probably infertile and could not count on having more children, there was always a chance that I could become pregnant, so if we decided that our family was complete, we would need to use birth control. Because of additional medical benefits, I chose a contraceptive that was both expensive and would be outlawed by “personhood” laws that have been backed by conservatives including two Presidential contenders, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Santorum has very specifically, directly opposed contraception even for married couples. All of which makes me ask, what country am I living in? What year? What planet? Of course if people don’t want to use birth control that is their personal decision but where do they get off telling other people what to do? I feel like we have lost all sense of what responsibility and accountability means when employers talk about offering birth control as part of an insurance plan as an infringement of their own religious beliefs. No one has to use birth control and offering heath insurance does not mean that you endorse the personal choices that people make under that health care plan–again, important health care decisions of all kinds are not anybody’s business except a patient and her/his doctor.

Why am I telling you these personal details? Because life is complicated, and women are smart and thoughtful people who deserve to be trusted. Because I am angry and outraged that anyone would try to come between me and my health care in such a personal, imperative part of my life. Because it is absolutely essential that women to keep speaking up–the Susan Komen-Planned Parenthood funding backlash shows that a spark is there, that women will speak up against the War on Women [see also NY Times] which has really gotten out of control. Because the media coverage of the latest controversies about birth control has lacked the personal, grassroots voices that bubbled up so effectively and suddenly in response to the Komen controversy. Real women with real-life concerns need to reclaim our stories and stand up for what we need, every day. What do you have to say?