People who have been warning about slippery slope for years unable to recognize slippery slope

Monday, February 13th, 2012 · 23 Comments »

Feminists have been warning for years that contraception was next on the conservative hit list; that the war on abortion would metastasize into a war on birth control.

On Friday President Obama handed conservatives the first victory in that war, marking off contraception as a special thing that could be legitimately denied on the basis of religious liberty. You would think that the people who have been warning against this for years would be alive to the danger. And some of us are. But a lot of folks aren’t getting it.

So let me try again to explain, using examples.

Example 1: Let’s say a Jehovah’s Witness-affiliated company tells the Administration that they don’t want to cover blood transfusions in their healthcare plan because it’s against their religious beliefs. Do you think Obama would hold a press conference and announce that, henceforth, employers won’t have to pay for blood transfusions if it violates their conscience? Would he invoke the precious right to religious liberty? Would he announce that insurance companies would pick up the slack and pay for blood transfusions themselves?

No. He would not. The Administration would simply say to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Sorry, but no dice. Blood transfusions are normal healthcare. And it’s settled law that your religious beliefs don’t provide any exemption from general regulations or allow you to discriminate against employees in the public square. End of story.”

Example 2: Let’s say a Scientology-affiliated company tells the Administration that they don’t want to cover psychiatric medicine in their healthcare plan because it’s against their religious beliefs. Do you think Obama would hold a press conference and announce that, henceforth, employers won’t have to pay for psychiatric medicine if it violates their conscience? Would he invoke the precious right to religious liberty? Would he announce that insurance companies would pick up the slack and pay for psychiatric medicine themselves?

No. He would not. The Administration would simply say to the Scientologists, “Sorry, but no dice. Psychiatric medicine is normal healthcare. And it’s settled law that your religious beliefs don’t provide any exemption from general regulations or allow you to discriminate against employees in the public square. End of story.”

But with contraception, Obama has acknowledged that it’s a special thing that can be denied on the basis of religious liberty. He has carved it away from the rest of the pack of treatments and medications, and put it over in a special class.

A special class that has only one other member: abortion.

This is precisely what feminists have been warning about for years. It doesn’t matter that Obama has provided a practical workaround so that women can still get pills; the moral and legal ground has shifted. Female contraception has been marked, called out, made negotiable.

It’s important to understand that this is a move backwards. For the past 12 years the EEOC has been treating birth control as normal healthcare and insisting that employers—including Catholic institutions—cover it lest they be in violation of the Civil Rights Act.

But now, contraception is special. Now, contraception is negotiable. A matter of conscience, something employers in the public square can opt out of.

The Republicans have responded with an amendment that would expand the “religious liberty” mechanism to all employers and all forms of healthcare. The terrible irony is that some feminists are prepared to fight this move. They’re prepared to argue that it’s crucial to hold the line, to make sure that Obama’s religious liberty exemption applies only to contraception, and only for established religious institutions like Catholic hospitals.

The effect of this, of course, will be to solidify the notion that contraception is special. Not like other forms of healthcare, but special. Marked. Set aside.

Just like abortion.

23 Responses to “People who have been warning about slippery slope for years unable to recognize slippery slope”

  1. Miss Clairol says:

    This is somewhat off-topic but right now, NPR is doing a show on Title IX. Older women are calling in to talk about how few opportunities they had, while younger women are bemoaning the fact that men whine about Title IX as if it’s a zero-sum game between women and men’s sports when that’s not the case.

    The reason I bring this up is I was looking up more information on Title IX, and I remembered that the Commission on Civil Rights is trying to institute changes in the implementation of Title IX, using straight-up MRA rhetoric like “unfairly impacting opportunities for men in athletics” and so on.

    The Obamacrats don’t just pander to conservatives, when it comes to thwarting opportunities for women at every turn, they are conservatives.

  2. votermom says:

    So far Obama has been proving a bigger danger to women’s rights than any GOP president. The problem is with Obama as POTUS, he moves right and the Dems basically cheer him on. So disheartening.

    Only Nixon could go to China and all that …

  3. Violet Socks says:

    People really seem to have a hard time thinking this through clearly. I was just now reading the comment thread on Quixote’s post over at Sky Dancing, and I was startled by this comment in defense of Obama:

    If there is something more that should be done, then the people who are screaming about what Obama did should articulate what–pragmaticcally– can be done.

    What? Nothing needed to be done. There was no reason to accommodate the bishops at all.

    Conservatives have been complaining about the healthcare mandate since it was passed, claiming that it was infringing on their rights in various ways. Does Obama need to “do something” to accommodate their idiot claims?

    The EEOC has been enforcing the birth control rule for 12 years, and Catholic institutions have been covering birth control all this time. So what if the bishops whine? Whine away, dudes. It’s the law and fuck you.

    Obama didn’t have to do anything.

  4. votermom says:

    Obama didn’t have to do anything.

    I’m convinced B0 is creating this controversy to give Dems a reason to vote against the GOP in Nov. He sure as heck can’t run on his record, so he has to re-ignite a wedge issue.

    Legal Insurrection connected a dot – George Stephanopolus brought up contraception out of the blue at the debate he moderated. The GOP candidates were like “huh? why are you asking about that?” Then lo & behold, a few weeks later B0 does this.

  5. Violet Socks says:

    Legal Insurrection is a wingnut site that’s 100% full of shit.

  6. blondie says:

    My only difference of opinion here would be that what I think Obama could have done is use the Presidency’s bully pulpit to state that BC is a normal part of health care for women, and it will be covered just as any other covered health care. It’s a generally applicable law, and the Catholic Church is not entitled to a special exception just because it claims a religious belief to the contrary. We wouldn’t decriminalize the smoking of peyote or polygamy, even if they were central tenets of religions, and we won’t abdicate our responsibility to health care simply because the people who will receive it are women.

  7. bluelyon says:

    I just read this whole post to my husband who I thought would “get it.” He didn’t. He could not see what the problem was since women “will still get their birth control.” He could not grasp the “carving out” aspect of this. I felt like I was talking to a brick wall.

    And I’m really sick to my teeth of the so-called progressives crowing about what a brilliant move this was on Obama’s part.

    You are exactly right. He didn’t have to do a thing.

    And can someone tell me exactly how the insurance company is going to provide this extra coverage that the employer isn’t paying the premium on? Is this going to be the whole health care bill again where the woman is going to have to write a separate premium check just so she can get her birth control without a co-pay?

  8. Violet Socks says:

    And can someone tell me exactly how the insurance company is going to provide this extra coverage that the employer isn’t paying the premium on? Is this going to be the whole health care bill again where the woman is going to have to write a separate premium check just so she can get her birth control without a co-pay?

    However it works, the precedent has been set that the money for contraception will have to be tracked separately, etc., etc. There’s only one other medical treatment that gets handled like that. Starts with an A.

  9. Adrienne in CA says:

    Knew it would be bad when, just an hour after Obama made his statement last Friday, Nancy Pelosi sent it out in email with the desperate heading:

    Feminist President Obama protects women’s health with liberty for all

  10. Adrienne in CA says:

    Correction: it was Christine Pelosi.

  11. Vera says:

    “We wouldn’t decriminalize the smoking of peyote or polygamy [...]”

    Please excuse me for going off-topic for a moment. I’d like to gently suggest that peyote — a sacrament to many people — not be included in this discussion, or placed in the same frame as polygamy. For generations the dominant culture has persecuted and proscribed the practices of indigenous peoples. Placing peyote in the same class as heroin and cocaine is one of the ways the dominant culture mocks the religious minority who includes it as an integral part of sacred ceremony.

    (btw, peyote is usually taken orally, not smoked)

  12. quixote says:

    “The terrible irony is that some feminists are … prepared to argue that it’s crucial to hold the line, to make sure that Obama’s religious liberty exemption applies only to contraception,”

    Say whaaaat?

    “Feminists” are saying that?

    I knew there was a reason I’m only reading three or our blogs these days.

  13. quixote says:

    Vera, I agree that there’s a fundamental difference between peyote and polygamy. One has no business being subject to civil legislation, and the other is a crime.

    The biggest problem with putting them in one category is that it’s a huge fallacy. The fact that it’s offensive is important only because people have no real right to forbid peyote use. It hurts no one. After all, I’m sure there are Mormons who are offended that others are against polygamy. In that case it doesn’t matter, because what they’re defending is a crime that deprives half of all people of some very basic rights.

  14. Carmonn says:

    I’ve tried the what if religious hospitals refused to provide care for people of different religions or certain races with liberal dudes and, unsurprisingly, they don’t get it. See, treating women as lesser beings is part of “religious doctrine” and therefore, part of religious freedom. Asking religious institutions that provide public services to not discriminate against women would be akin to the government requiring women priests. However, discrimination against men of different religions or certain races is emphatically not part of religious doctrine, and if it were to become so tomorrow, denying them services would violate the Constitution, which would be bad. In this case.

    I just about give up.

  15. Violet Socks says:

    I think it’s possible that blondie mentioned peyote because peyote was the issue in the landmark Supreme Court case that established that religious liberty doesn’t provide an exemption from general law. Employment Division v. Smith.

  16. blondie says:

    I’m sorry. I truly wasn’t trying to be offensive about peyote, and the only reason I mentioned it is the Supreme Court opinion wherein they stated religions aren’t entitled to exemptions from facially neutral, generally applicable laws arose from a free exercise claim regarding use of peyote. I am otherwise ignorant as to its use, did not intend to mock or belittle its religious use, and apologize for offending by including it.

  17. Violet Socks says:

    It’s interesting, but actually peyote is legal now, at least for use in Native American ceremonies. And that’s a direct result of Smith. Scalia’s opinion swept aside the old “compelling interest” clause and ruled that religion provides no exemption from generally applicable laws, as you point out. And that’s why women can have their birth control covered by godbag employers, so yay. Though I’m not sure how Scalia feels about that.

    But the specific circumstances of the Smith case brought to everyone’s attention how stupid it is for peyote to be illegal in the first place. And so now it’s not.

  18. tinfoil hattie says:

    Scalia’s Catholic, so I can guess how he feels about women & birth control.

    This is a brilliant, brilliant post. I think we can rest assured, though, that this slippery slope is marked “Women Only.” No health care that pertains to men will ever be treated like this. Dudes are safe again.

  19. Natalie ._c- says:

    I think it’s ironic that Utah was denied statehood until the Mormons wrote polygamy out of their religious practices. To whoever screamed about it being a crime — a crime is what you make of it. I a man and several women (or a woman and several men) are of sound mind and consent to “marriage”, then what business is it of yours? In case you were wondering, there are lots of people living in such families, they just are being quiet about it. Plus both polygamy and polyandry have been quite socially acceptable in other times and cultures.

    I think the examples above and the example of polygamy are perfect rebuttals to Obama’s caving in to the Catholic Church, and yes, I DO get it!!

  20. Violet Socks says:

    To whoever screamed about it being a crime

    Whoever screamed about it? Her name is Quixote, and it’s right there on her comment.

    Natalie, here’s the deal: this blog is more like a salon than, say, the comment thread at YouTube. People have intelligent conversations here.

  21. quixote says:

    Natalie, I didn’t say polyamory. We were talking about a case involving the Mormon concept of polygamy, which is actually polygyny, and only polygyny, with very specific, women-have-no-rights points. That is a crime. Depriving people of their rights is the definition of a crime. And interfering with the rights of freely consenting adults to do what they want is another one. So, we’re on the same page, actually.

  22. Carmonn says:

    “or a woman and several men”

    Can we please retire this bit of idiocy and stop pretending that “a woman with several men” would have the power in that relationship? Do deliniate all these numerous times and cultures where sharing one wife was a female-centered female-controlled practice.

  23. KendallJ says:

    Violet,

    You explain things so clearly. Thank you. I wonder if Ms. Magazine still thinks Obama is such a great feminist?

    I am bursting with seething anger at all those so called feminists who insisted that he was the better choice over Hillary Clinton. This guy is a disaster!!!I think he did this to secure women’s votes in the fall. He did it deliberately to show how bat shit crazy the rethugs are and to make it look like he saved birth control, when in fact he’s the first to take a hatchet to it.

    If he told the bishops to fuck off, the issue would have gone away, at least for the campaign season. He needed the wedge issue more than the rethugs, especially this one because it is so far out there that most people would go with the democratic position. I don’t think the public is that immersed in the constitutional mandates on that were already in place. All they saw is that the rethugs and bishops wanted to deny birth control, and Obama figured out a way to save it. This is the cruelest part of this whole thing. Once again Obama compromised women’s rights for his own political advantage. I just don’t believe that he doesn’t know what he did. And for what other reason would he do it?

    And to think, if Hillary Clinton were the president how much we could have moved forward, instead of being time warped back to the 1950s.