Not dark yet, but it’s getting there.
Last week Missouri picked up where Arizona left off, tackling two anti-women’s health bills, including one that would allow employers to deny coverage for birth control pills unless employees provide proof the pills are used for a “medical need.”
Missouri Republicans strongly believe that employers should be the ones left in charge of determining what health care benefits employees are eligible for. Sen. John Lamping, the bill’s sponsor made this point very clear. “In my opinion, employers today have the right to offer whatever benefits they want,” he said.
I have a medical need. My *medical need* is not to have a baby unless I decide to have a baby. I do not and should not have to prove any other medical need in order to have access to birth control.
This is why birth control should be provided by the state. This is why health care should be provided by the state. We need an impartial source. An employer is not an appropriate judge of my medical needs. The only people remotely capable of informing me as to my medical needs are medical professionals. The only appropriate judge of what should be done in any medical situation concerning my body is me.
Since I left Christianity, I’ve more than once been offered a job by someone only to have them tell me after I agreed to take the position that they had religious beliefs that affect how they run their business. Sometimes I’ve tried to tough it out. When I had a clear warning beforehand, I did not take the job. I think people with religious beliefs can get along with those who don’t believe the same thing, but it’s an uncomfortable position for me personally. I feel pressured to conform to ideas that shaped my entire upbringing. I would rather not spend much of my time in a situation where I feel that constant pressure. I would definitely prefer that my access to birth control not depend on the beliefs of the person who employs me.
Growing up, I was surrounded by people who perpetuated the image of Planned Parenthood as an abortion factory where women were encouraged if not forced to murder their babies. Since moving to Washington, I’ve gone to Planned Parenthood numerous times for various reasons. Not once have I ever been pressured to make a specific choice. Without fail, my decisions about my body have been respected. I have seen other healthcare providers who dismissed my concerns and ignored my feelings. Interestingly enough, the one other time I received the same respect and consideration was from a Catholic doctor. My point here is that there are people of faith who do believe in freedom of all religions, but there are those who believe exclusively in the freedom of theirs.
Freedom of religion does not mean you get to make other people live according to your beliefs. If my employer can decide whether or not I take birth control, I don’t have freedom of religion. Let’s say in this scenario, I am an employer who believes in a woman’s right to control her reproductive health. Here’s the difference between me and someone who believes they have the right to withhold access to birth control: if you work for me, you can decide whether you want to use birth control or not. You have freedom of choice. You have freedom to exercise your personal beliefs. But if you work for someone who decides your use of birth control is immoral, you do not have these freedoms.
To put that power in the hands of people who will use it to force others to live according to their beliefs is wrong.
A while back I pointed out to someone close to me that while they frequently express their religious faith to me, I rarely speak of my personal beliefs. This person considers herself a Christian. Her response to my remark was, “But mine are right!”
This is what you’re dealing with. People who believe they are absolutely right to make the decisions they are making. That it’s for the greater good.
Every time I see a headline like this come up I start to write a post. Most of the time I stop. This year the news has been full of these headlines. It’s exhausting. I’m tired of being so angry, of feeling as though the tide is turning against women, as though we’re being forced backward into the past, to relive a history in which we were prisoners of our biology. I know exactly what these people believe. I lived in a community with these principles for years. Some of them, most of them, are friendly people, nice people, smiling people. They talk about God’s love and they talk about the power of forgiveness and they talk about sexual purity and morals and family values. I can translate anything they say to a reporter or any speech they make at a press conference. I can’t handle the constant stream of their rhetoric, because I know exactly what they mean whenever they open their mouths.
They mean that they have the truth, the only truth, and that their truth should control your existence.
I fully believe in their right to live their own truth. I do not for a second agree that I must live it too.
I’m not going to write a post like this every time. But I was born in Missouri and I lived there for years, and there are many women in that state whose lives and health I care about. So today I did.