My Turn: Putting the ‘us’ in uterus
FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2012 file photo, customers walk to a Hobby Lobby store in Dallas. Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby says the chain will start carrying Jewish merchandise in some of its stores after a New Jersey blogger complained about a lack of Hanukkah items. The change came about after blogger Ken Berwitz said a Hobby Lobby employee told him that the chain doesn't stock Jewish merchandise because the Green family is Christian. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
A demonstrator dressed as the 'Bible' stands outside the Supreme Court building awaiting the court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Attorney Representing Hobby Lobby, Lori Windham, center, does a television interview outside the Supreme Court following the decision on the Hobby Lobby case in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
I’ve never been to Hobby Lobby, even though there is one just a few miles from me. It’s a conscious choice. If I had time for a hobby, it wouldn’t be crafting.
However, I was born a girl – not a conscious choice – and I grew up to become a woman who went on to experience unplanned pregnancy – four of them, to be exact.
Of course, the whole “planned” or “unplanned” argument can get dicey depending on whether you believe life is preordained by God or biology, or just the luck of the draw.
Anyway, that was all during a time when I was actively using birth control, none of it 100 percent childproof, as we all know. Back then, pre-HMO, doctor visits cost about 30 bucks, common prescriptions were usually less than $10 and medical expenses were not a topic of conversation in any social or political circles.
Preventing my own pregnancy was my own problem. I certainly didn’t expect it to be something my employer, my president or the U.S. Supreme Court should pay for, let alone argue over.
I always paid for whatever my birth control method of choice was at the time. Usually whatever was popular or considered safe – until it was overruled by the next safer or more convenient method.
None of it struck me as that expensive, especially compared with the cost of raising a child.
But the truth is, the conscious decision to prevent pregnancy is not without risks.
Over the years, we’ve read the reports outlining mistakes made in manufacturing, where the white placebo pills were switched with active-ingredient pills during packaging; or problems with IUDs that don’t stay put and get lost somewhere in the womb; or side effects from the chemicals in oral contraceptives that range from acne and nausea to weight gain and breast cancer.
We women are funny like that. We put it all on the line, whether it’s to prevent children or raise them.
When my unplanned pregnancies made it more challenging for me to work outside the home, finish my education, pay my bills or save for my children’s college educations, I did what every other human mother worth her weight in synthetic estrogen did: I figured it out.
Now, if you’ve never been a woman, you might not dwell so hard on the fact that in an effort to control our collective uteri women have, for centuries, subjected themselves to all sorts of physical, chemical and pharmaceutical challenges to thwart pregnancy, most of which come with short- and long-term risks, including actual pregnancy.
This is a fact of human life.
We do what we must do to keep our wombs baby-free until we are ready to commit our bodies – and the rest of our lives – to motherhood.
My point: I’m having trouble wrapping my head around how the founder of an arts and crafts store and his personal religious beliefs have divided the U.S. Supreme Court and pretty much stirred a hornets nest of controversy over governmental overreach and human reproductive rights here, in this place where personal freedom and equality ring from sea to shining sea.
To recap, Hobby Lobby founders David and Barbara Green don’t want to subsidize the use of an IUD or a “morning-after pill” for female employees as described by the federally mandated Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act because they are devout Christians.
They don’t want to be damned to hell for carelessly providing a comprehensive health care plan that would allow a female employee to exercise her own freedom of choice about how she wants to occupy her uterus.
Although – big asterisk here – vasectomies are okay with the Greens – even though we’ve all seen the middle school health class video footage of those determined little spermatozoa moving with Olympic-caliber ambition toward the poor, unsuspecting ovum.
Maybe they are technically not considered “alive” until fertilization, and I can’t say whether a sperm has a soul, but they certainly appear to have a mind of their own as they swim toward the goal line and our indifferent female eggs.
I’m not suggesting that the Greens are being lopsided with their logic, but frankly, when it comes to controlling birth, my uterus has no ability to grow a baby unprovoked.
I guess my best unsolicited advice here is don’t work for Hobby Lobby if you are still a woman of childbearing age and can’t afford to pay for your own birth control.
I know. It’s not that simple.
Because now that the Supreme Court has weighed in, quite heavily, tipping the scales of justice in the direction of religious beliefs, it’s going to be even harder to talk about what human health care benefits should look like in a civilized world.
Or what employers should have to provide for their employees to help protect their good health.
There are at least 150 other for-profit companies with Hobby Lobby-like court cases pending, many of which object to subsidizing all forms of birth control for employees.
Grab some popcorn and settle in for the marathon of court drama sequels already in the making.
Before you blame President Obama or a liberal agenda for this mess, consider that we, the people, have done nothing over the past three decades to stop the escalating cost of health care or to break the strong arm of pharmaceutical lobbyists.
We have embraced better living through prescription drugs, hoping for a quick fix for whatever ails us rather than caring for our own health by making healthier choices. We should be eating better, exercising more, not eating processed foods.
We should be eating locally, scrutinizing the corporate practices that seem to be part of our unraveling, like factory farming and genetically modified anything.
Health insurance has become a necessary and costly evil because the cost of health care services has been allowed to spiral out of control. Let’s fix that.
I also have a problem with the greed that underwrites our governmental policies. I believe campaign finance reform is a good idea. I think our elected officials should be hell-bent on protecting us from the things that do us harm, from pollution and corporate greed to poverty to gun violence.
I would like to see more goods manufactured here, rather than in China. And I would like retailers like Hobby Lobby to take a stand on that issue – even if it reduces their bottom line.
Because, clearly, the corporate conscience of Hobby Lobby answers to a power with more clout than the almighty dollar.
Oh, and I don’t think human reproduction – or lack thereof – should be politicized. Period.
But I am no longer worried about contraception. I am more focused on another aspect of the ACA, one that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.
Under a section called the Personal Responsibility Education Program, there is a provision for states to receive federal grants to include science-based sex education – including abstinence and contraception.
One hitch: they must also include “adulthood preparation” subjects including healthy relationships, adolescent development, financial literacy, parent-child communication, educational and career success, and healthy life skills.
Imagine that: Sex education in the context of human life skills.
Most states have applied for PREP grants, which hopefully means that young people growing up under the ACA, particularly girls, will be better prepared for adult life than their foremothers and forefathers.
This is especially good news for Oklahoma, corporate home of Hobby Lobby, ranked fifth in the nation for high teen birth rates at a cost to taxpayers of about $190 million annually, according to the Tulsa Health Department.
If these teen moms need to work to support their babies, I hope that, moving forward, there are good jobs available with comprehensive health care benefits that will make it possible for them to lead healthy lives and choose how they control their uteri.
(Carol Robidoux is a freelance writer who lives in Manchester.)