The Madonna, the whore and the law student

?

Republicans love to talk about sex. 

Last week, the Senate rejected a Republican-sponsored initiative that would have allowed employers to be exempt from providing contraception in employee health insurance if they had religious or moral objections. Some states, including Arizona, Colorado and New Hampshire, are considering similar legislation.

Republican presidential hopeful and sweater-vest aficionado Rick Santorum said he would favor overturning Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark 1965 Supreme Court decision that prohibited states from restricting access to contraception. 

The court, in a 7-2 decision, said that prohibiting the sale of contraception violated a citizen’s right to privacy – a precedent that played a large role in Roe v. Wade, eight years later. This fundamental right to privacy has been cited in cases upholding same-sex marriage, and in banning restrictions on same-sex sexual acts.

For the record, all of the remaining Republican candidates favor overturning Roe.

In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, Louise Trubek, who challenged the Connecticut law four years before the court agreed to hear Griswold, summed up why access to contraception is so important: “Women are not guaranteed control over their own lives, because the necessary social supports were never secure,” she said. 

Trubek articulates perfectly why access to contraception is paramount for women – without it, they cannot control when to have children or plan a family. Lack of contraception restricts a woman’s ability to be a working professional with a career; it denies full autonomy.

I believe that health care is a basic right that should be guaranteed to all citizens, and contraception should be included in that coverage.

The combined oral contraceptive pill was approved for sale in 1960, and dramatically affected the role of women in society. 

In a 2002 essay discussing how the pill affected women’s marriage and career decisions, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz noted, “the pill directly lowered the costs of engaging in long-term career investments by giving women far greater certainty regarding the pregnancy consequences of sex.”

The alternative, they argued, is bleak: “young women embarking on a lengthy professional education would have to pay the penalty of abstinence or cope with considerable uncertainty regarding pregnancy.”

Santorum said in a 2006 television interview that birth control harms women and society, but the exact opposite is true. Access to contraception benefits both. It does not encourage women to have sex outside of marriage; rather, it enables women to be solely responsible to choose whether or not to have children. 

No one is suggesting it be mandatory to use contraception. Men and women should have equal and unfettered access to birth control, should they choose to use it or not. 

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have stated that they do not use contraception. That is their choice. But don’t make that decision for my sister or my girlfriends or any women in this country. Your morality is just that – your morality. And it is dangerous to legislate accordingly.

Romney and Santorum want abstinence-only education in our schools, they want to restrict the sale of contraception, and they want to ban abortion – yet they wonder why the United States has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world

To borrow from Josh Lyman, they want to reduce the size of government so it’s just small enough to fit inside our bedrooms.

Teenagers are going to have sex. We have decades of research that tells us that. Seven in 10 teens have had sex by the time they turn 19, according to a report published by the Guttmacher Institute last month.

It is absurd that the debate over whether contraception should be legal, or that the Constitution guarantees a fundamental right to privacy, has reignited

Whether it will continue after this raucous election year is over remains to be seen, but the fact that a basic component of women’s reproductive health is being seriously challenged is deeply troubling.

I don’t know when “feminist” became a bad word. I don’t know why women’s rights in many ways have regressed more so than progressed since Roe. I don’t know why the long-overdue Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which expands health care to 30 million Americans, actually restricts a woman’s access to abortion. 

Anti-contraception crusaders, stop demonizing women. Stop inventing a moral panic about “sluts” and “prostitutes” who want the government to pay for their birth control so they can have unlimited sex with whoever they want. 

There are real, dire issues facing this nation right now that warrant a space in the public discourse. We don’t have time for the cosmetic ones.