Monday, February 06, 2012

War on Women

I really try to keep my blog fairly apolitical.

Try as I might to avoid politics, I realize it's inevitable that some of my beliefs will seep into my writing. It's inevitable because sometimes--like on nights like tonight--those beliefs literally set my fingers on fire.

When I sat to write today's entry, I made a valiant effort to hopscotch down a few paths. All of those attempts either resulted in a blinking cursor or a tangent related to the recent legislation President Obama supported.

And so tonight, politics it will be. Please know that I realize this is a horrendously dangerous topic to tackle, and I am sorry if I offend you. If you don't share my political beliefs, I beg you to please stop reading now. I beg you to forgive my brief indulgence. I beg you to return tomorrow when I will tackle something far less divisive. For now though, my brain is in desperate need of venting.

On Sundays, when J has to work through the morning lineup of political talk shows, we DVR them so we can watch them together. He was on all weekend, so our dinner tonight happened to be serenaded by the blatherings of David Gregory and Fareed Zakaria, complete with interviews and round table discussions with Newt Gingrich, Michael Bloomberg, Mitch Daniels, Deval Patrick, Xavier Becerra, Rachel Maddow, David Brooks, Alex Castellanos and David Remnik.

As you can imagine, the discussions were red hot.

Before I dive into my venting, I'd like to preface my entry by saying that I appreciate hearing arguments even if I disagree with them. I love how they make me think and I love the bickering and debating which invariably manifests from tossing strong-willed, fairly articulate and fundamentally different people into the same conversation.

Not only do I love it, J loves it too, and we love it even more when we get to watch it together. In fact, we live for our Sunday morning vacation from chores or work, because it gives us the chance to solidify what we think, to challenge what we previously believed, or to consider issues for which we have absolutely no opinion. And I especially love when J pauses the show, when we fill our quiet condo with talk about the absurdity or the brilliance of the words we are hearing.

Tonight, when they talked about the war on religion President Obama waged when he demanded that insurance plans cover contraception, I tried to maintain an open mind, but I felt my internal thermostat continue to rise. My cheeks flushed, my stomach churned, my palms filled with puddles of sweat.

"You're scaring me," J said as he watched me curl my legs beneath my butt, and nervously swap one fingernail for another, chewing like a deranged drug addict.

"I can't believe what they're saying. I am teaching the civil rights movement right now. I'm discussing inequality in class, and I'm listening to an educated person tonight--a person whose words, if reapplied, could conceivably appear on the history pages we are reading."

"I know," he said back to me, staring with the same disbelief.

"I had to pay $80 for birth control when I was in grad school. After college, when I stopped playing competitive sports, my body waged war on me. I was in tremendous pain one week, every single month. When my doctor prescribed birth control, she changed my life. I could function; I felt human. If some of these men who see birth control as a war on religion actually felt what some women feel each month, this would not be an issue. I wasn't preventing birth when I was working 18 hours a day to become a teacher. I was spending $80 a month just so I could get out of bed and function in my job. It was absurd for me to spend that much money, but I went to a small college who took part in a graduate school insurance consortium, and no matter who I complained to, they wouldn't cover it. Viagra--yes. Birth control--no."

J nodded his head.

"They are waging a war on women!"


"I understand that the Catholic church does not believe in birth control. I understand that the Catholic church has firm standards and rigid rules. I understand all of this because I am Catholic. And I don't believe the actual church should have to pay for a policy that funds something they bitterly oppose.


The actual church does not have to follow these laws. The affiliated businesses, on the other hand, should. I recognize Catholic organizations provide charity, but so do a lot of secular businesses and those businesses are not exempt from following laws for which they disagree.

Breathe again.

"And I can't believe Newt Gingrich is leading the charge on this. What about the the affairs he's pursued or the adultery he's committed or the wives he hasn't stayed with when they were sick? His decisions have been anything but Christian exemplars. And now, he asserts a pious position?! A war on religion? In a secular society?

We finally have legislation that takes women's health into consideration and it's being twisted into a war on religion. I wonder what the bishops he is quoting have to say about his lifestyle. You have got to be kidding me."

J sat nodding, listening.

"A lot of people agree with him," he said.

I strained for air. I tried to imagine how. I really did. But I couldn't.

When I heard the NPR story declaring that women would get their birth control covered by insurance, I actually squealed. I sat up higher in the driver's seat. I felt like my nation was moving forward. The economy might still be rotten, some of our minorities are still facing discrimination, and poverty is out of control, but this....this gave me a light of hope.

This made me believe I mattered. This made me believe that the fight I started fighting in grad school mattered. The letters I wrote, the "managers" I spoke to, the people who had to listen to me complain about the injustice of their prescription coverage--they were all in the past. And this was the future, a future where women--no matter where they happen to work--would have the right to the drugs they need (yes, it is hard to find jobs these days so healthcare workers in Catholic hospitals or teachers in Catholic schools might have to work there even if they aren't religious).

Yep, silly, naive ole me thought that maybe, just maybe, we finally reached the point where women no longer had to feel dirty when they picked up their prescription, or had to deal with doubts when they mailed doctors notes to complaint departments, or worse yet--had to make the horrible choice between food and pain.


  1. Bravo. As always, your commentary-- political or otherwise-- has made me evaluate a specific issue in depth and think about the wars our candidates are waging on each other.

  2. I completely agree with you but am confused because my birth control is covered by insurance?? Are they trying to change this policy?

  3. Thanks, Betty.

    Rachel, not all insurance plans cover it. They just passed legislation mandating that all insurance plans provide coverage. You're lucky you insurance plan does!