May 23, 2024

Birth Control Rules

Following on to yesterday’s piece about birth (and death) control, here’s more from ABC News:

The Department of Health and Human Services draft proposal, which began circulating around Capitol Hill last week, would require hospitals receiving federal funds to certify that, in their hiring, they do not discriminate against people who refuse to provide forms of contraception, such as birth control pills, due to personal religious beliefs.

Hillary Clinton started the revolt and now 104 members of the House have written a letter to President Bush, saying:

"The regulation’s definitions are so broad as to go far beyond abortion politics and threaten virtually any law or policy designed to protect women’s access to safe and effective birth control. The department does this primarily by defining ‘abortion’ in a way that could sweep in many common forms of birth control," the lawmakers write in the letter.

"It would allow any provider, who wants to deny a woman emergency contraception or even birth control pills, to claim protection based on a personal belief that such pills fit the regulatory definition."

This last bit is interesting.  From the vantage point the pols are taking, the rule may deny patients access to contraception.  As they say, this is neither right nor desirable.  Yet that is not the end of the discussion, for it’s also not right to force a doctor to provide a service he/she finds morally repugnant.

The obvious solution is for the patient to simply find a doctor whose moral values are harmonious.  That’s perfect!  Free choice and everyone is happy, right?  Or they would be, if patients had unrestricted access to medical providers.

Unfortunately this is not the case.  Low-income patients are often unable to choose physicians freely because of transportation and cost issues.  Even privately insured patients are often denied the ability to choose a compatible doctor due to insurance plan restrictions.  In other words, the problem is with the American health care system itself, not the rules that would guarantee physicians’ rights to practice medicine as their conscience guides them to.

Be that as it may it’s undoubtedly the administration’s attempt to enforce the law that will draw heat from the letter’s writers and their supporters while the defective system will muddle onward and downward, particularly if a Democratic universal coverage plan is enacted.  No point in dealing with the root of the problem, is there?

Meanwhile, the self-appointed advocates for female emancipation are out for blood.  Echidne says that, "The Best Contraceptive Pill…According to the abstinence folks is probably an aspirin firmly held between the woman’s knees."

Holding onto such a magic pill would certainly be good advice for teenage girls, particularly those in socio-economic brackets in which their rapacious beaus have an extraordinary propensity to fail to provide fatherhood to their unfortunate progeny.

Despite the many virtues of childhood chastity – teen pregnancy being only the most obvious – both Echidne and Digby have new posts up raking Christian purity balls over the coals. 

From Time’s level treatment of the father/daughter events:

GIRLS RECITING PLEDGE:…to remain sexually pure…until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. … I know that God requires this of me.. that he loves me…and that he will reward me for my faithfulness.

Purity is certainly a loaded word–but is there anyone who thinks it’s a good idea for 12-year-olds to have sex? Or a bad idea for fathers to be engaged in the lives of their daughters and promise to practice what they preach? Parents won’t necessarily say this out loud, but isn’t it better to set the bar high and miss than not even try?

In response, Digby says:

Some of these little girls are only six years old. They don’t even know what their "purity" means until daddy tells them that it belongs to him, the "high priest" in his home. And no, it’s not a good idea for dads to be this involved in their daughter’s nascent sex lives. In fact, it’s completely inappropriate and weird for a daughter to pledge her virginity into her father’s keeping for him to "give" to her husband. Are we really going to pretend that the "memories" they are making with this sick shit is something to celebrate?

Whether Digby agrees or not, it’s certainly true that two of the best things young men and women can bring into a new marriage are a pure heart and a pure body.  It’s deceit of the highest order to pretend that promiscuity doesn’t hurt young people and girls more so than boys, whether the sex results in an unwanted pregnancy or not.  Couching the lie in the guise of women’s rights does not make it more true. 

That said, there is something in her post, despite its liberal use of repellent anti-Christian dogma, that strikes a chord with me.  Specifically, the near obsession that some men have with the romantic activities of their teenage daughters. 

The dictation of rules such as no boyfriends, no holding hands, no phone calls, etc., are common policies in the homes of some Christian families.  Not the majority, to be sure, but still common.  While usually well-intentioned, I don’t agree that "no tolerance" rules for boy-girl contact are best for a young lady’s emotional growth.

Perhaps this opinion stems from a bad relationship I had with a teenage girl’s father, but there’s something fundamentalist about fathers who exercise too much direct control over a girl’s body, something faintly disturbing, even if it never manifests itself in a Muslim-style honor killing, say.

Some parents disagree, saying that anything that keeps a girl from coming home from the high school dance knocked up is justifiable.  Parenting is, after all, a question of priorities and it’s up to individual families to set their own, with or without Digby’s approval.

I lead a Christian book study group and my back of the envelope numbers tell me that a vast majority of the people who have been through my class have had to carry the burden of a "pre-marriage" pregnancy.  Frankly, after what some of these guys (and gals) have been through because they made bad sexual choices when they were young, I find it hard to condemn any father or mother for clamping down on their daughters’ choices.  That’s true even though I don’t always agree with their approaches.

Digby is right that purity pledges should wait until a girl or boy understands the meaning of what they are promising.  It’s only then that a meaningful promise can be made.  There we part company because children would be both godly and wise to refrain from sexual activity at least until they are independent adults.  Why?  Because they are neither emotionally or fiscally capable of assuming the consequences of their actions.

If it takes a girl making a purity pledge to her father to reach that end, so be it.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

View all posts by marc →