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What’s behind birth control politicking

Birth control is the topic du jour for politicians.

Rather than a personal matter between couples and God, family planning is a topic among political officials gunning for votes this election season.

Nationally, the Obama administration announced July 22 in a court filing it had plans to develop an opt-out for Catholic and religious nonprofit employers with conscience objections to providing employees with contraceptives, as required by the federal Health and Human Services mandate. The “work-around” would be different from the accommodation set for such employers, according to reports.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., sponsored a bill that attempted to upend the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision and prohibit employers from denying workers contraception coverage. The bill failed. The contraceptive talking point was used as political fire against rival U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, who later wrote in a Denver Post column that Colorado should take the politics out of contraception, also adding, “women should be able to buy the pill without a prescription.”

The list of examples of politics joining contraception could go on.

Helen Alvaré, law professor and co-founder of the initiative Women Speak for Themselves, said she predicts contraception to be the “political football” of the election year.

HelenAlvare_web
Helen Alvaré

Such political wrangling is an example of a shift in the framing of the contraceptive debate. Candidates are attempting to sell the belief that a vote for a candidate means access or no access to contraception.

The perception is, voting for a pro-contraceptive candidate “is voting for the modern woman and voting against (the candidate) is voting for the image of women not having sex or when they do have sex, it’s for the purpose of children,” Alvaré explained in an interview with the Denver Catholic Register.

That’s really not the issue, she said. Contraceptives are available to women at drug stores and through their doctors.

The focus on contraceptives is not disproportionate to the seriousness of the topic; however, the real question at issue is not its legality, but rather the meaning and impact of separating sex from procreation, she said.

“On paper the word contraception looks trivial,” she said. “In reality, looking at separating the entire concept of sex from the entire concept of babies—overall, that’s pretty monumental as a fact of human nature.”

An ongoing political debate reveals a society still discovering the meaning and effects of that separation, she said.

And when it comes to entering the political office, it’s purely a maneuver, she believes.

And the greatest loser in the debate is babies.

“Children don’t vote or write campaign checks,” Alvaré said.

Alvaré said it’s time for a real conversation about the meaning and purpose of sex.

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