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Contraception Extremism and the Right-Wing Bubble: Noted

Amanda Marcotte: Contraception Extremism and the Right-Wing Bubble:

When you aim for “mighty rulers of America” and instead land on “squalling baby” as your public image, you screwed up, big time. So what went so terribly wrong for Republicans? If you really want to understand what’s the matter with the modern Republican Party, look no further than the issue of contraception, which played an important role during the shutdown talks. The way that the modern Republican Party approaches what used to be the non-issue of contraception tells you everything you need to know about how the Republicans’ dramatic right-wing shift happened, and why they can’t seem to see that the political moves they think are genius are actually scaring and alienating ordinary voters....

More than 99 percent of sexually active women have used contraception at some point.... Only 8 percent of Americans believe that contraception is morally wrong. Unlike abortion, on which conservatives have successfully bullied and guilt-tripped people until many Americans believe the issue is morally complex, doin’ it without conceiving is a popular American past time, more popular than crappy sitcoms, ice cream, and professional sports. Even the people who pull faces and say it’s wrong like to do it.

Despite this, Republicans have been getting increasingly aggressive about attacks on contraception access. While most of them are unwilling as of yet to come right out and say it’s wrong—Rick Santorum delightfully excluded—there’s been a noticeable trend rightward in both anti-contraception policies and an escalation of anti-contraception rhetoric. It started under the Bush administration with an explosion of “abstinence-only education”.... Since then, Republicans have put a surprising amount of effort toward trying to find any excuse they can to demonize and restrict contraception.... Previous budget fights have involved Planned Parenthood, and while the Republicans often try to claim their various attempts to defund the organization are about abortion... the money in question does not go to abortion at all, but instead to other reproductive health services.... You don’t cut off contraception funding because you hate abortion. You do it because you hate contraception....

One of the major reasons talks on a budget were stalled was, you got it, contraception. Many Republicans demanded a bill that would allow employers who disapprove of contraception—for you, that is, since their own contraception use is kept out of the discussion—to withhold your earned insurance benefits covering it. While Republicans might try to write off these attacks on contraception as being about “abortion” or “religious freedom” (“religious freedom” being code for “the right to impose my faith on my employees”), the increasingly ugly rhetoric around contraception itself belies that claim. Look, they’re not even trying to hide it anymore. Ted Cruz was railing on about how the birth control pill, which works by suppressing ovulation, is an “abortifacient.” This attempt to redefine contraception as abortion has been going on for years now.... At that same Values Voter Summit, speaker Gary Bauer characterized Sandra Fluke as “promiscuous,” basically defining the word to encompass any woman who has ever used or even supports the use of contraception....

Many Republicans live in a bubble world, constructed of right wing media and Bible-thumping bedroom communities where they get almost no exposure to the fact that some of their ideas are just plain weird.... When I hear some Republican trying to imply that birth control pills are some kind of great controversy in America, I often wonder how their staffers hide the existence of color television from them, much less iPhones and electric cars.... This out-of-touch mentality goes a long way to explaining how Republicans thought this shutdown showdown was a great idea...

Adele Stan: At Any Cost: How Catholic Bishops Pushed for a Shutdown—and Even a Default—Over Birth Control:

On the matter of the government shutdown that took effect October 1, it seems the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)... wouldn’t mind seeing the global economy brought to its knees for the sake of making the most effective forms of contraception more difficult for women to obtain.... No cardinal was ever made to interrupt his education for an unplanned pregnancy; no bishop ever endured the pain, blood, and terror of a life-threatening labor. But I digress.

Late last month, as a legislative impasse incited by Tea Party-allied Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), between the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives brought the government within just days of a shutdown, the bishops weighed in....

In a letter dated September 26, Archbishop Seán Cardinal O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore prevailed upon members of Congress to attach to the next version of the CR measures that would allow private employers, as well as large church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities, to be exempted from a part of the Affordable Care Act that requires that all insurance plans cover prescription contraception.... The letter was sent under the aegis of the USCCB (also known as the bishops’ lobby), and signed by O’Malley and Lori in their capacities as respective chairmen of the lobby’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty....

As Congress considers a Continuing Resolution and a debt ceiling bill in the days to come, we reaffirm the vital importance of incorporating the policy of this bill into such “must-pass” legislation,” wrote Lori and O’Malley in their September letter....

If poor babies went hungry because the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) closed down, so be it. If poor children were locked out of their Head Start classrooms, that was apparently deemed a small price to pay to make a stand against allowing people to plan their families....

In 2011, the USCCB undertook a counter-initiative in their newly-formed Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, under the leadership of Archbishop Lori.... Lori’s committee went on to launch a campaign titled Fortnight for Freedom, beginning on the Feast of St. Thomas More (a Catholic martyr) and ending on Independence day—in the heat of the presidential campaign. No longer was the emphasis on the alleged moral evil of contraception; it was now on an ostensible threat the bishops claimed was being made to the religious liberty of Catholics by the Obama administration. No matter the campaign was a dud among rank-and-file Catholics; it injected the bishops’ anti-Obama message into the 2012 election. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney even made an ad featuring images of the late Pope John Paul II that accused Obama of “waging war on religion.”...

In 2012 and early this year, the Obama administration made an accommodation in the regulations for Catholic-affiliated institutions, and similar institutions affiliated with other religions, that mandates insurance companies to pay for the benefit... the bishops were livid.... They... added: “As Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori explain in their September 26 letter, access to health care may also be compromised by recent threats to conscience rights in health care.”

It was a threat repeated, its essence this: Drop the contraception benefit mandate, and nobody gets hurt. But if you don’t, don’t blame us for what happens next.

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