Potter has spent weeks talking up in the media his opposition to the contraceptive coverage benefit. He’s stated that he opposes the contraceptive coverage benefit because he questions “what gives [the federal government] the right to tell [him] that [he has] to [cover birth control].” But here’s the thing: he’s admitted he would not have cared if it was “Jack Daniels or birth control”—it’sthe principle. Potter’s admitted that the root issue—“the beginning and ending of the story”—is the government trying to tell him what to do. As he said, “[he’s] got more interest in good quality long underwear than [he has] in birth control pills.”
Today, during oral arguments for the preliminary injunction, his tune may change. Contrary to his many statements, his lawyers will try to convince a Michigan district court that Mr. Potter’s religious beliefs motivate his attempt to deny his employees (and their families) the comprehensive insurance they are entitled to. That’s because the claims Potter is making require a violation of religious exercise. But proving religious beliefs are at issue won’t be an easy task. When asked what particular religious belief led him to oppose the benefit, Potter said “Well, there isn’t any one particular religious belief… I find it hard to get my head around the question.”
Traveling on subways in NY, I often saw ads asking if a woman was “alone, scared, pregnant” and suggesting she call a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) hotline for help. Spread throughout the city, these seemingly-innocuous English and Spanish ads often faded into the background—designed to capture your attention only if you, a friend, or family member needed help.
Since one in two pregnancies across the U.S. is unintended, women daily face a need for reproductive healthcare that might prompt them to call one of the 2,500 to 4000 CPCs located across the country. Unfortunately, instead of offering transparent, unbiased, comprehensive information that allows a woman to make her own informed choices, CPCs adamantly advocate against abortion regardless of the woman’s life and health circumstances, and needs.
However tattered, ugly, or shocking the truth may be, only by addressing facts rather than falling back on myths can we craft solutions (be they legislative, cultural or community-based) that truly improve people’s lives.
When my coworker posed the question, why are you celebrating women being able to access preventative services without a copay, my answer was sure and simple, “Because women deserve it.”
Not everyone agrees with that statement. If the last months of public debate have shown anything, it’s that there are a wide variety of views on the women’s right to access reproductive healthcare. Some people think it is good public policy and long overdue; others think that it’s a gift or worse, immoral.
Last week at a lunch with African advocates for women’s rights, we discussed pregnancy rates in Africa and the United States. Across the continents one thing remained constant—women have better outcomes when they are able to control their fertility. They enjoy greater freedom to pursue academic studies or careers, and to plan their lives as they see fit.
Opponents to birth control have made speeches decrying the rule, hosted conferences and brought lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit... Since the lawsuits have proved to be a publicity-gaining tool, we can anticipate many more.