By Benjamin Mann
Advocates of President Obama’s contraception mandate should admit that its main purpose is sexual liberation and not “women’s health,” according to a feminist author who supports the mandate.
“The phrase ‘women’s health’ in the birth control dispute is the latest nimble euphemism,” author and blogger Pamela Haag wrote in a Feb. 17 essay.
Access to contraception, she said, “isn’t really about my ‘health.’ It’s not principally about the management of ovarian cysts or the regulation of periods.”
“Birth control isn’t about my health unless by ‘health’ you mean, my capacity to get it on, to have a happy, joyous sex life that involves an actual male partner,” wrote Haag, criticizing White House supporters for discussing contraceptives mainly as “preventive services” for women’s health.
“The point of birth control is to have sex that’s recreational and non-procreative,” wrote Haag approvingly. “It’s to permit women to exercise their desires without the ‘sword of Damocles’ of unwanted pregnancy hanging gloomily over their heads.”
Haag, a supporter of “reproductive rights” and “women’s sexual liberty,” accused “mainstream liberal voices in Congress” of publicly ignoring the real purpose of mandatory contraception coverage.
“Barbara Boxer frames the birth control issue ‘a la mode’ as about ‘defending women’s health,’” she noted. “EMILY’s List refers to the ‘war on women’s health.’”
“I understand why they’ve done this, in terms of narrow political expediency. We’ve been on the defensive about reproductive rights and women’s sexual liberty for decades. We’ve used a euphemism of ‘choice’ for years.”
Haag said these mainstream political voices “tiptoe around the heterosexual woman’s unsightly libido, and end up with a strangely euphemistic rhetoric, a defense of birth control that seems to involve no sex, desire, sperm, or men.”
The author went on to indicate her support for consequence-free, government-enabled sexual liberation and promiscuity.
“When deeply-settled rights are most in danger, it’s not the time to euphemize, or retreat from assertions of sexual liberty and self-governance. It’s time to gun it instead,” she declared.
“So here’s the subject I advocate for, because no one dares to speak her name: It’s the 20-something unmarried heterosexual woman who wants to have sex, has sex, enjoys a good sex life with her boyfriend, and, in that sex life, uses birth control. Or, she accidentally gets pregnant.”
Haag’s view may find little public support among “mainstream” backers of the president’s contraception mandate.
The policy, which forces religious institutions to provide services they oppose, has been consistently defended on “women’s health” grounds. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius referred to the concept 10 times during a Feb. 10 PBS NewsHour interview about the mandate.
There are surprising points of convergence, however, between Haag’s perspective and that of the U.S. bishops – who have consistently argued that contraception is not health care, because fertility and pregnancy are not diseases.
In a July 2011 letter voicing early opposition to the contraception mandate, the bishops’ pro-life chairmain Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo argued against its imposition – on the same grounds that Haag used to “gun it” in favor of “sexual liberty.”
“Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” the cardinal wrote in the letter.
In that same letter, the bishops’ pro-life chairman also voiced suspicion about the real motives for the Institute of Medicine’s decision to recommend mandatory contraception and sterilization coverage in all health plans.
“I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children,” he said in the July 19 statement.