The XX Factor

Dispatches From the War on Contraception

A pro-life activist stands in front of pro-choice activists at a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on January 23, 2012.

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

With all the angry denials earlier this year from Republicans who have been accused of conducting a war on women, you might think that those same Republicans might just lay off that war until after the election, if only to suck the momentum out of their critics’ narrative. But for some reason, the party of Ayn Rand acolytes has decided that even rational self-interest is no competition against the larger goal of making the ladies of America pay for all the hot sexing, most of which isn’t even uploaded on XTube for Rush Limbaugh’s enjoyment.

Yes, just when you thought they were backing off for a bit, Republicans are once again fighting the War on Contraception, a service 99 percent of women use at some point in their lives. Presumably, this is just a warm-up to the political winner of the War on Cute Animal Videos, which you should keep an eye out for in October.

You’d think Republican lawmakers would have learned a lesson from the prominent failure of the Blunt Amendment, which attempted to give employers permission to get into your business and deny you contraception coverage through health plans you earn with your labor and money. But, no. On Tuesday, Rep. Denny Rehberg attached an amendment to a labor, health, and education spending bill that would once again allow your employer to decide if it approves of your sexual choices and whether or not you should get contraception coverage. The bill goes on to deny funding for contraception to Planned Parenthood until they give up providing abortions, even though no federal funds actually go to abortion.

The fight over state level defunding of contraception is getting hotter this week, too, as Planned Parenthood has sued Arizona for cutting off contraception funding by denying women on Medicaid the opportunity to get their non-abortion preventive care at Planned Parenthood, even though it’s often the only provider many women on Medicaid have access to. The word “abortion” is being tossed around a lot to justify this assault on contraception and other preventive care, but it’s worth remembering that a sincere dislike of abortion would lead to wanting more access to contraception, not less. Of course, if the motivation is hostility toward female sexuality, then the behavior of Arizona legislators is perfectly rational and consistent.

There’s one silver lining in all of this, which is that efforts to cut women off from using contraception are often meeting defeat in court. U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom of Lincoln, Nebraska, just dismissed a lawsuit brought by seven states demanding that employers be given the right to deny employees’ earned contraception benefits, on the grounds that the employer disapproves of their private sex lives. Urborn dismissed the claim that an employer’s obligation to keep its nose out of employees’ panty drawers is a violation of religious freedom, and was particularly skeptical of the suggestion that the ACA’s exemption for religious organizations should be expanded to any employer who invokes Jesus to cover up for his grabby interest in his employees’ sex lives. It’s hard to imagine this will be the end of legal attempts to deprive employees of their religious freedom to make their own contraception choices, but it’s good news all the same.