Amidst all the brouhaha about “religious freedom” that has become attached to the discussion about reproductive rights and contraception, it has become clear that the word “freedom” is not a simple word when belief gets thrown into the mix.
Do you remember the old adage that “Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my face begins”? It’s simplistic yes, but it’s the root of distilling the complexities of these political fights. Certainly, in a country as large and diverse as the United States, you can’t please all of the people all of the time (to steal yet another old adage). There will always be policies that help one group that other groups don’t like. It’s sometimes difficult to even find the middle ground with so many different belief systems and ideologies.
But what isn’t difficult to figure out is this: if your “freedom” actually requires the REMOVAL of someone else’s freedom, there is a serious problem with your understanding of the concept.
Most of you know the drill. The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies have to cover contraception with no co-pay to the recipient on any policies issued after August 1, 2012. Simple enough, and one that it’s somewhat shocking WASN’T happening as a general rule, since covering birth control is much cheaper than covering pregnancy. Twenty-eight states do already have laws on the books requiring birth control coverage to be covered like any other medication. The ACA made it official across the board.
Now, let me be clear on what this means for a moment. This requires HEALTH INSURANCE PROVIDERS to cover contraception with no co-pay, something that many of them were already doing or required to do by state law. Eight states require this and also make no exemption for whatever man-in-the-sky you happen to worship. And thus far, this was seemingly no big deal.
Until Obama made note of it in public, no one seemed to pay any attention to the new rule. But when he opened his liberal-commie-socialist-fascist-Muslim (I love how all of those go together) mouth, the proverbial feces hit the rotating wind-making device. Even after a concession to said feces-flinging types that allowed for exemptions to religious institutions (which strikes me as a huge concession, considering that there are plenty of people who work for, say, Catholic hospitals who are not Catholic), the poo continued to fly.
Apart from the instantaneous cries of “sluts should close their legs” and “OMGz0rz, I don’t wanna pay for things I don’t like” (which doesn’t seem to phase many of these same people when it’s for war or capital punishment), we got the added bonus of seeing a panel of male religious figures testifying on access to contraception, with nary a dissenting voice from the XX chromosome-bearing side of the gender spectrum. The given excuse? That this was not a health issue, but one of religious freedom.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? You have the right in this country to worship whoever and whatever you want. If you want to worship a lily-white, blond, blue-eyed Jesus, no one is stopping you. No one’s burning any Bibles. You can worship Cthulu or bunny rabbits or a bowl of pasta, for all the government cares, although rest assured, you are not exempt from mockery should you do so (and trust that the large part of the mockery will come from other “religious” people). You are also free to worship nothing and no one should you so choose (although once again, be prepared for these same proponents of “religious freedom” to treat you like a 3-headed, purple leper should you so choose). Pretty much, if you want to call something a God and prostrate yourself before it, you’re not going to have Federal agents breaking down your door to steal your tacky crucifixion paintings or crowbar the Flying Spaghetti Monster plaque off the tail-end of your car. The government is not handing down mandates on what church you should attend (although the fact is that Christianity is still the de facto religion for politicians, regardless of the fact that the Constitution explicitly prohibits a litmus test for religion for them, which the “religious freedom” cheerleaders conveniently forget).
That’s what religious freedom means. The government doesn’t get to tell you how or who to worship.
What does religious freedom not mean? It does not mean that religion gets to impose its rules and laws onto an entire country, full of people with different beliefs and values. It means churches don’t get to dictate public health policy, although most of us understand that it for a long time, they’ve been attempting to do just that. It means that the government doesn’t get to tell you to worship anything at all, or to impose the rules of one religion upon those of another or no religion. See how that works?
Yet once again, an Orwellian interpretation of “freedom” is causing a sector of the populace to vigorously defend their own rights, by working to take away other people’s rights. And yes, I believe that the ability of a woman to choose when or if she procreates to be a right. After all, without that right, we are nothing more than slaves to our biological functions, forced into working the rest of our lives around pregnancy and child-rearing, whether we want to or not. That’s not freedom; that’s servitude. And that is at the heart of this whole fight.
Sure, there are other medical reasons why women use contraception, and those are valid and important healthcare reasons. But using that argument doesn’t phase people who have a much deeper purpose in mind. So, factual as it may be, it’s not even a concern for those who would impose their religious moral codes onto the women of an entire nation.
Let’s face it: religion survives because of servitude: servitude to “insert god figure here”, and giving up individuality to a “higher power”. I’m not being glib or attempting to insult, either. That’s pretty much the size of it. It’s abdicating your own personal wishes and wants to a higher power, who will shoulder the burden and guide you in the right direction. For better or for worse, that’s what is required. That’s not a value judgment, but an observation based on studying the major religions. Sure, there are subtle differences in how all of it is phrased, but that’s the basic premise.
So it’s not exactly shocking that those whose mindsets are formed by servitude are more than willing to interpret their religion in a way that reinforces the notion that women’s servitude to the procreative (and to the patriarchal, since gods and their interpreters are almost always male) is perfectly reasonable.
So when you run up against those who think that women making choices about their own bodies is problematic, it’s because you actually have the nerve to think that your personal choices are more important than the will of a god that gave you a uterus.
And frankly, if you are dealing with people who think in terms of subjugation to the will of a god figure, you have to acknowledge that their interpretation of words like “freedom” is inherently suspect. Anything less than absolute thralldom to a god or to a religion just doesn’t register. The rights of women to make decisions about their own bodies is anathema to those who believe that women have ONE biblically-defined purpose, which is to pass on the genetic code and the family name of men.
So it shouldn’t really be surprising to hear all the denials coming from that crowd about how this isn’t about contraception, or women’s choices or reproductive rights. They don’t believe that we have any rights other than the right to give up ourselves and our bodies in service to a higher power. Their version of “freedom” doesn’t actually apply to people. It applies to a belief system that has been defined by the suppression of individual will and, conveniently enough, means that it is men that both interpret and enforce the laws of that whatever higher power sits at the top of their religious hierarchy.
We are dealing with an intensely myopic sector of American society, whose worldview is informed by insularity and adherence to doctrine. And that’s fine. If that’s your thing, welcome to it. But you can keep it to yourself and your compadres.
When you decide that your worldview is not just the only one that matters, but that your beliefs should prevent women from accessing basic healthcare needs and keep us in a state of biological slavery, that’s not “religious freedom”. That’s coercion and hypocrisy, and there’s not a damn thing in the Constitution protecting manipulative jackassery from being called out for what it is.