If you’ve spent any time at all on feminist-leaning websites, blogs, or twitter feeds in the past few days (and I’m assuming you have because, well, you’re here) you know that a lot of people are outraged and scared by the Supreme Court’s ruling that Hobby Lobby, the Christian-run craft store, does not have to cover female employees’ contraception in its health insurance. The company cited its “sincerely held religious belief” that since contraception can cause abortion (what???), it is wrong, and the Supreme Court ruled that the company should not have to violate that belief by covering its employees’ contraception.
Now, the list of reasons for outrage here is a long one. First of all, I find it reprehensible that the Supreme Court allowed the “belief” that contraception causes abortion to be used as a reason Hobby Lobby shouldn’t be forced to pay for it. Contraception does not cause abortion. Contraception does not cause abortion. This is fact. Scientific. Medical. Fact. But because someone “believed” that it does, nobody is allowed to deny that.
Yesterday I got into a small argument on Facebook with a friend of a friend regarding the outrage that a lot of people have over the fact that Hobby Lobby’s insurance will still pay for Viagra, penis pumps, and vasectomies, while denying women contraception.
The man that I had this conversation with said he was tired of people using the coverage of Viagra as a talking point in their argument against the Hobby Lobby ruling. He said that while logically it made sense to point to the coverage of vasectomies, since it directly violates the “contraception is abortion” belief, using the Viagra argument made the pro-choice side look like they were getting hysterical, therefore weakening our position.
My response was that if their beliefs are so sincere and religious, shouldn’t they only provide Viagra to men who are married? And, for that matter, married to a woman of childbearing age? My point was that, since Hobby Lobby wants to prevent women from having consequence-free (i.e. non-procreative) sex, isn’t it hypocritical to then help men do just that?
His reply included the idea that “When men use viagra, the consequences of the eventual act aren’t skewed either way unless he wears a condom or the woman’s protected–viagra may effect possibility, but it has no effect on probablility once the possibility threshold’s been passed.”
It took me a while to understand his point, because of the perspective from which I was approaching the discussion – I was looking at it from a bigger-picture perspective, while he was focusing on the specific legal reasoning behind this ruling. His point was that, in this particular case, covering Viagra was not antithetical to the company’s deeply held religious belief regarding abortion. Technically, Hobby Lobby is not saying, “don’t have sex”. They’re saying, “have all the sex you want, just don’t expect us to pay for your abortion”.
So, from that perspective, then yes, I understand why the Viagra argument seems a bit extreme. However, it does frustrate me that women’s fear and rage regarding this ruling are seen as a less valid part of the discussion than more “rational” arguments.
Because, while on the surface Hobby Lobby is claiming that this is about religious freedom, and not forcing anyone to violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs”, the fact remains that the only religious belief anyone is fighting to defend is the one that involves controlling women’s rights to bodily autonomy. This makes me suspect that while “religion” may be involved in their reluctance to pay for contraception, it is not actually the primary motivator.
This reminds me of the fact that the same bible verse that condemns homosexuality is also the one that forbids eating shellfish or wearing clothing that is made of two different fibers. While it may seem hyperbolic to cite this passage as an example of religious hypocrisy, the fact remains that the only beliefs that are “sincerely held” to the point of action are the ones that involve controlling and punishing already-marginalized groups.
I have to wonder if the reason it seems “extreme” to point out this widespread hypocrisy is because the hypocrisy is so ingrained in the culture of various religious groups, where certain laws and rules from religious texts are cited and defended, while others are ignored or blatantly flouted, that we’ve come to accept it as normal.
It may be “extreme” to turn the Hobby Lobby ruling into a discussion of the hypocrisy of organized religion in its involvement in governmental decisions, but as long as this religion is actively infringing on other people’s rights, maybe it’s a discussion that needs to be had.
For a lot of us, it’s really hard to take this ruling as an isolated incident. It’s really hard to look at it in a vacuum, and to carefully craft our counter-arguments based on the logic of the Supreme Court in this case alone. Because this ruling is one in a very long line of rulings that state that women’s rights to reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are secondary to religion’s rights to harass those women or to deny them healthcare. Because my belief that I should not be forced to continue a pregnancy that I don’t want is trumped by someone else’s belief that I should.
And while pointing out the hypocrisy of Hobby Lobby’s decision to still cover Viagra may not be, in the most strictly logical sense, an apt comparison, it’s still an important point in the larger discussion of anti-woman policies.