Dear Religious Right, you might be doing this wrong

Dear Santorum and Co. et. al,

I know. It was supposed to be about religious freedom, about the right to conscientious objection and the laws of this country. It was supposed to be about preserving, or establishing, the right of employers who believe that certain issues of a woman's reproductive health might be in violation of their conscience to not have to pay for it. (Of course, as the Queen of Spain mentioned,

You thought you were going to be arguing, in a nationally televised panel, that you should be allowed to object to something against your conscience. In this case, you believe the pill is something that kills babies, and you shouldn't have to pay for something like that. You don't want to pay for a woman's abortion because you believe it's murder. I get it.

I actually agree with you, a lot.

But I think you failed to tell the more important story, and it really mattered to the millions of women in this nation that you did.

You'd probably like me. I think. I mean, I'm not Catholic, or Mormon, or an Orthodox Jew. I've never taken birth control pills. I researched and researched and in the end decided I didn't want to mess with my bodies chemical and hormonal makeup. I try to eat clean food too as a result. I wasn't raised to believe this, by the way. I got here on my own, through lots and lots of reading.

I eschewed prenatal testing, convinced that I was going to bear my child no matter what was wrong with him or her. I've had 3 home births and caught my own babies. I would bear a Down's Syndrome child to term without a second thought.

I waited until I was married to have sex and I've only ever been with one man. A lot of people would consider that proof that I am too naive to discuss this issue. If by naive they mean I have experienced a lot less pain and heartache than many women then yes, I probably am naive. People probably think that's why I agree with you, and thanks to how you are presenting this issue they're not gonna have much cause to think anything different.

I also don't want my money to go to pay for an abortion, or for a woman to take drugs week after week, year after year, that may be harmful to her.

But my reasons appear to be different than yours. You see, I came to my conclusions based on a few things that you seem to have forgotten.

Here's how what I believe got me to the page you appear to be on.

1. All people are created in the image of God. In the ancient world it was the Christians, and the Jews, who had this idea of the sacredness of each person, of the reflection of the divine that each life was capable of who rescued rejected babies from garbage heaps, and raised them as their own.

2. Sex is more than a physical act, as is true of most things we do to sustain life, because our spirits inhabit our bodies and what we touch and what we do is all spiritual. In fact, separating sacred and secular is about as ridiculous as separating blood from sinew.

3. Because of 1 and 2 we ought to treat each other with dignity, both men and women for we are dealing with the image of God, with a person's spirit, in every encounter.

4. The Pope objected to contraception because he believed it would lead to the objectifying of women. He believed that divorcing the physical act from the realization of 3, that you are dealing with a person clothed in the dignity of being made in God's own image, and that the actions between you were designed to be treated with far more reverence than modern men and women treat sex, would lead to men who had no real care for women using her for sex and then discarding her. After all, if you divorce an action from it's consequences, if you can now blame her for getting pregnant because she should have been born all of the responsibility for the outcome of your intercourse, and you none of it. Then you have men, and women, entering into deeply immature and shallow relationships with each other that end in heartache more often than not.

Personally, if a man is going to touch one of my daughters it should be after he thought long and hard about whether or not he was willing to give his life for her, his whole life. I don't mean he should be willing to die for her, though if it should come down to it he had better be. But he had better be willing to live for her and with her, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health until death do you part.

Her father didn't even kiss me until he was ready to do that. So no, I don't think it's an unreasonable thing to expect of a man. I will teach my sons this exact same thing.

I won't have my daughter's body, it's reproductive ability and it's sexuality treated as an object by anyone, for any reason. Not if I can help it.

In fact, I won't have any girl's body treated as an object, by anyone, if I can help it. I want for every girl, and woman, in the world what I want for my own daughter. I want for her to know that she is special, that her sexuality, among other things, is valuable, sacred, even. I want her to know that no one should ever treat her as an object and with anything less than reverence.

I do believe that the common use of birth control has led to the cheapening of women in the eyes of men. I do believe that abortion is a sad and horrible thing. I do care about the aborti-facient properties of the birth control pill and believe that sex without reverence for life is far more shallow and less satisfying than it was meant to be.

So I am concerned, dear clergyman and congressman that you would approach this subject in the political arena with so little regard for the women your beliefs are supposed to protect.

You see, you weren't just talking about your own religious freedom and your right to conscientious objection, and you weren't just talking about health insurance. You had the eyes of the nation on you and a chance to tell people about how your faiths care deeply about women, their bodies, and their children, and instead you made crass jokes that were disrespectful, and flippant, and glib. Or at least, you let the people around you do so.

You failed to demonstrate love and concern for women.

I am concerned for women, for their self respect, for their ability to see themselves as something other than sex objects, for their ability to command the respect of their partner such that the onus of pregnancy prevention isn't on them, that they are with men who are willing to commit to the point that a pregnancy, even an unplanned one, isn't a disaster.

I'm concerned for the women, like a very dear friend, and the mother who adopted my nephew, who had ectopic pregnancies and would have died had it not been removed. They grieved for those children, even when they submitted to the surgery that saved their life by taking the life of their infant.

I'm concerned for the women who found out early in their pregnancy that their baby had a condition that they were not likely to survive outside the womb so they had time to prepare and were not surprised when the life of their little one was so brief after being born. They are brave, brave women who gave life to their babies for as long as they could, and they were mothers to their children, even if they only held them for a few hours.

I'm concerned for all the women who are RH negative, like I am, who's babies would have likely died 50 years ago if it were not for antibody screening and the invention of Rhogam.

I'm concerned for the very brave women I know who endure great physical trials during pregnancy for the sake of their convictions and commitment to not using contraception in spite of the health risks.

I'm concerned for all of these women, and their stories, that you trampled on last week with your grandstanding.

I'm just wondering, are you?

You did none of these women justice by your words or actions, and it's a shame, because they deserve it.

Why is it, do you you think, that the modern world thinks of Christianity and Judaism as so repressive of women? How is it that a faith that was shockingly liberal in it's attitude toward women, compared to the rest of the ancient world, is now considered oppressive?

You may win the legal battle. I actually hope you do. But I hope that you are even more concerned with the people caught in the middle of that battle and how they are cared for.

It's something to think about.


  1. Compassion. That is exactly what you display that the men discussing this issue are missing- COMPASSION. And I've been screaming it from the rooftops for weeks now, because I've had such a hard time understanding how they are 'men of God' and seem to have zero compassion for the women caught up in this battle. While I disagree with you on just about every point you make, I DO agree with you that the conservative side needs to show COMPASSION and some understanding for American women who believe as they do and do NOT believe as they do. It frustrates and pains me this is an issue in 2012. Physically and mentally pains me. Women, in my eyes, have been reduced to a political liability that can be tossed and flip flopped at the whim of these men who seem to not care or show any compassion for their well being or their lives- not to mention the families we are raising. I am terrified if we continue down this path. Terrified. But I appreciate that you recognize what is happening, even if we do not agree on the issues. You SEE it. And I hope more conservative women speak out - it scares me that I have heard nothing or so very little from conservative women and that any hope of compassion is dying as the clock ticks. 

  2.  here's what I read"I love you, even if it kills you"

  3. Hi Linda,

    That's not exactly what I meant. I personally think there must be an option C where the right to conscientious objection is not overridden but women still have access to things like BC if they choose them.

    It's not like it's not readily available outside of the single avenue of employee health insurance.

    I here one side saying, "We shouldn't have to pay for something that we believe is wrong that is within our right as citizens." and the other side is saying we shouldn't have to pay for something that we want and think we have the right to have as citizens."

    Both claims of right are valid in my opinion and I don't really know how it can be resolved while maintaining the rights of both sides. But shouldn't we at least try?

    My main point though is that the right is failing to discuss this issue with any apparent compassion for the women caught in the middle of it.
    As a person who doesn't have anything other than emergency health insurance and haven't since I moved to this country I don't really have a vested interest in this discussion because what I want I pay for out of pocket and
    I generally choose outside of what is provided by the mainstream anyway.
    Like paying my midwife $3000 to attend my births and provide prenatal care
    vs. the $20,000 or more it costs for the same things with an OBGYN and
    hospital birth.

  4. Honestly, I think conservative women think about this issue so differently than you do that you question doesn't entirely make sense to them. What I hear conservative women saying is more along the lines of, "When did trying to alter the function of our fundamental biology become Women's Health?" That's a direct quote BTW.

    They don't see this issue in the same light at all because they've never relied on the services being discussed and they don't view them as essential. They are more concerned with losing basic rights and freedoms in the religious arena.

    It's fascinating to me to observe just how differently women from the same country frame this issue in such different ways.


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