My religion is to kill your religion

The discussion about the birth control pill fiasco has boggled my mind. I’ll explain the title toward the end, but let me start with my bogglement. There are whole swathes of blogland who feel that so long as the pills are available, it’s all good. They don’t see a problem with the fact that, as Charles Pierce puts it:

The Church has claimed — and the president has tacitly accepted — the right to deny even its employees of other faiths the health-care services of which it doesn’t approve on strictly doctrinal grounds. That is not an issue of “religious liberty.” That’s the enshrinement of religious thuggery in the secular law.

That’s also a remarkable departure in a country founded on the separation of church and state, a country where as recently as twenty years ago even the most conservative of Supreme Court justices asserted that religious practices cannot conflict with the law of the land. Dakinikat quoted a few days ago:

The free exercise [of religion] clause and its meaning is well established. There is very little ambiguity about what it is and what it is not.

“In 1878, the Supreme Court was first called to interpret the extent of the Free Exercise Clause in Reynolds v. United States, as related to the prosecution of polygamy under federal law. The Supreme Court upheld Reynolds’ conviction for bigamy, deciding that to do otherwise would provide constitutional protection for a gamut of religious beliefs, including those as extreme as human sacrifice.”(1)

The Court stated that “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices.”

Or, as the Reclusive Leftist says:

“[I]n 2000, the EEOC ruled that employers who failed to include birth control coverage in their prescription healthcare plans were in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That’s because the Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. The EEOC allowed no exceptions for religious institutions.

What the Obama Administration has done now is to basically reverse that. They’ve said, “You know what? Never mind. That clause in the Civil Rights Act about discrimination on the basis of sex? Forget it.”

So, yes, the pills will still be there for women who need them. But not because the government says women have the same right as everybody else to make their own decisions about their own health care.

The pills are still there, but not because you have a right to them. It’s because nobody has taken them away yet.

Losing your rights is not a win. Getting birth control pills by the grace of Obama is not a win. Unless you mean a win for him. Now this is something that’s his to bestow … or for those bogeyman Republicans to take away. Or, given Obama’s past actions in non-election years, his to bargain away.

That is why rights are important. Having rights means people who violate them can be held accountable. Receiving dispensations means constantly asking (begging?) for what you need, and tough luck when you don’t get it.

We’ve seen that movie play out in abortion rights. Riverdaughter summarizes:

The same thing happened with abortion. It was merely a few workarounds, a few inconveniences. If you really need an abortion, it will still be there for you. You just need to assuage the consciences of a few religious people. That’s how it started. But how has it ended? In some states, there is only a single provider and women have to risk losing their jobs to get an abortion. It’s no longer just a few workarounds. Now, it’s a major ordeal.

And that progression happened because for too many people it wasn’t about the right to decide your own medical procedures. So long as they still had some kind of escape from forced pregnancy, it was just too difficult to argue about rights. The result is that here we are. Too many people are just glad they can still get birth control pills. Arguing about rights is divisive, difficult, aids and abets Republicans (see above, re “bogeyman”), and time-consuming. And it’s physically nauseating to realize that you’re not a human being in other people’s, including the President’s, mind.

Because the subhuman status of women is an unavoidable consequence of not acknowledging their right to make their own medical decisions. It’s a logical consequence of putting a religion, any belief, ahead of the civil rights of citizens, any citizens.

I’ll go through the steps. There aren’t many.

If you accept that everyone is equal before the law, then respect for people’s beliefs must take a back seat to the same respect for everyone’s beliefs. That’s what equality before the law means. When beliefs conflict, actions based on those beliefs must be restrained to the extent that they interfere with anyone else’s equal exercise of their own rights.

On the other hand, if beliefs can take precedence, then equality can’t exist. It’s a logical impossibility. If we’re all equal, and everybody’s beliefs are therefore equal, but beliefs trump other rights, then my religion can trump your religion. And if my religion is that your religion should be wiped out, we’ve achieved logical absurdity in three easy steps.

So respecting beliefs more than some people’s civil and human rights has to mean that those people don’t count. If one truly believed they were equal, one would be instantly in the land of logical absurdity. And I think people feel that, even if they don’t articulate it. Look at how blandly they insist that rights aren’t the issue; pills are. Recognizing rights in that case leads straight to either saying that women don’t really have them (which most people don’t want to say out loud) or to absurdity.

I do realize that another logical consequence of saying we’re all equal, and therefore some rights have to take a back seat to others, is that I’ve just said there’s a hierarchy of rights, that some rights are more important than others. And I also realize that means one has to make decisions about relative importance, and that that’s supposed to be the end of the world. God help us, the thinking goes, if we have to start making value judgments, there’ll be no way out of the he-said-she-said morass and the legal system will be overwhelmed.

There are a couple of arguments against that point of view. One is that the current system is not exactly morass-free, so I’m not sure we need to fear the complexity all that much. Two is that the complexity is an unavoidable consequence of equality. That may make things difficult, but the only alternative is might making right. If we want equality and rule of law, then we have to deal with the complexity. Insisting it’s too much for us won’t make it go away.

I spend more time discussing the hierarchy and relationships of rights in Re-imagining Democracy, but in the particular case of women’s reproductive medicine and religious beliefs there aren’t too many steps to follow.

Making your own medical decisions is an integral part of the right to control your own body, the right to your own bodily integrity. Others can’t hit you, cut you, perform medical procedures on you, or kill you, except when you’ve been declared a legal non-person either because of mental incompetence or criminal action. The right to be free from direct physical harm is so basic it’s even more important than the prohibition against killing. It’s recognized that you have a right to kill in self-defense.

The right to control your own body is self-evidently basic to the exercise of all other rights. If you can be beaten at any time, you’ll do whatever is necessary to avoid beatings. It won’t matter what rights you have on paper. If you can be Catholic only if you agree to have a finger removed, there won’t be many Catholics. If you can take part in a demonstration only if you’re ready to withstand virginity tests (or, if male, colonoscopies), that’ll cut way down on the number of people demonstrating.

The right to control your own body is absolutely fundamental. Medical procedures are part of that right. Both birth control and abortion are medical procedures. The right to make decisions about them rests solely with the person involved. Religion can enter into the decisions made by that person, but it cannot affect the exercise of a basic human right in anyone else. Unless, of course, you abandon equality and the rule of law.

(No, it makes no difference that in the case of reproduction another potential human being is involved. The right to control your own body takes precedence even over somebody else’s life. That’s why nobody can requisition your spare kidney to save another actual human being, to say nothing of a potential one. Further, whether pregnancy involves a mother and a human being or a mother and a developing group of cells is a matter of belief. There are no cellular markers that light up when you become a person.)

So here’s the bottom line. Women have lost the recognition of their most basic right as citizens. In return, they have been given pills. That is a sop, not a win.

Crossposted from Acid Test

60 Comments on “My religion is to kill your religion”

  1. dakinikat says:

    I still can’t believe how many men are on TV talking about birth control. THAT completely boggles my mind, but anyway …

    White House Chief of Staff Jack Law was on Face the Nation and said the administration is implementing the current rule and law. The Red Beanie Set are still not appeased.

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced the modification in a lengthy statement: “We will therefore continue – with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency – our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government.”

    On Friday, the White House altered a recently announced health care rule to say that insurance companies must provide contraception and sterilization coverage free of charge, even for employees of religious-affiliated institutions. The onus is no longer on the employer to provide coverage free of charge.

    “The solution that the president announced on Friday is one that puts no institution that claims religious objection because it’s related to the church, whether it’s Catholic hospital or a Catholic university, in a position where they either have to pay for it or provide benefits that they find objectionable,” Lew told Schieffer. “But women will have the right to get them.”

    Exactly!! WOMEN have a RIGHT to get Birth Control. All those men should shut up now.

    • dakinikat says:

      and here’s what Mitchie McConnell says:

      Not satisfied with President Obama’s new religious accommodation, Republicans will move forward with legislation that permits any employer to deny contraception coverage in their health insurance plans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Sunday.

      “If we end up having to try to overcome the President’s opposition by legislation, of course I’d be happy to support it, and intend to support it,” McConnell said. “We’ll be voting on that in the Senate and you can anticipate that that would happen as soon as possible.”

      • bostonboomer says:

        If that happens, then it will have to go to the Supremes. I’m so sick and tired of this. I’m one of the oldest people here. I was telling Minx earlier that when I was in high school, it was just taken for granted that women were inferior. It was stated straight out.

        I had an English teacher whom I looked up to. He always praised my writing and made me read my essays in class. Then he would be talking about women writers and he would say that women could never write as well as men. I felt that like a stab to my heart. To this day, it still hurts to think about it.

        When I read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, it thrilled me! Reading that book changed my life forever. Now 45 years later, we are still fighting the same battles as when I was 19 years old.

        I’m so exhausted by this situation, that I’ve actually been crying off an on all day. So if I’m wrong to feel this is a positive step for Obama and that maybe he can be pressured to do more, then what is the solution? What should we do about it, Quixote? And I’m asking about practical action, not talk.

        My generation fought for the rights to birth control and abortion. We fought for women to get equal chances in the workplace, to have the right to choose whether to have children or not and/or whether to stay home with them or not. You can’t imagine what it was like if you didn’t live through it. And it was worse for my mother’s generation. We’ve worked, we’ve tried our best. It’s time for younger generations to do their part.

        I’ve been denounced here over the past couple of days. I’m still waiting for practical, real-life solutions to be presented. At least Dakinikat has researched the Constitutional issues and we seem to be on solid ground there. But I’m not so sure this nearly 100% Catholic SCOTUS will continue to uphold the Constitution.

        • dakinikat says:

          I think the even the Republicans and the Red Beanie set MUST know it wouldn’t pass court scrutiny. I think they’re doing this to excite their base. It’s obvious no one is voting in the Republican primaries and caucuses. They’re afraid the lack of enthusiasm and intensity will cost them in November. The Bishops started this, after all.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        I just now saw this on Memeorandum…wow.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        And one more thing, look at this picture…look at all those men.

      • northwestrain says:

        Photos like that pissed me off.

        Also the word picture of the prez and HIS team of MEN — trying to figure out what to do about the women.

        This isn’t his decision — it is women’s decision.
        So the LA Times piece — link in MM’s post above is right on target: “Contraception and women’s rights — it’s still a man’s world”

        None of this should even be up for discussion — the fact that a bunch of men are still calling the shots tells me that this war on women will go on long after I’m dead — and long after all of us are dead.

      • ralphb says:

        BB, I’m terribly sorry if you feel anything other than pride for your contribution to this whole discussion. Seems to me that you and Dak have been as fair as humanly possible and I want to say thanks. I learn a lot from you all every day.

      • ralphb says:

        nwrain, Last time I looked Kathleen Sebelius looked like a woman. Though by now I’m sure some blogs have anointed her an honorary man for the duration.

      • “BB, I’m terribly sorry if you feel anything other than pride for your contribution to this whole discussion.” –ralph

        BB, I’m sorry too… 😦

      • From the Research Institutes of Duh….

        Study: Men Dominate Media Coverage of Contraception Issue

      • quixote says:

        This is in response to BB’s “What the hell can we DO?”

        Really. The situation is so out of hand (I mean, birth control is icky? Srsly? How many decades back have we slipped?) that I just don’t know where to start. Plus, the best course of action depends on the person. Me? I’ll start by not voting for Obama. But. But, but, but. Just like everybody else here, there’s practical politics to think about. If Santorum had a chance of winning my state, hell, yes, I’d vote for B0. I see him as up at Bush’s levels of evilness, but compared to the Frothy One, he’s lesser. Your line may be different. And I have no idea what’s right. We’re all guessing and hoping for the best.

        As for other things, all I can think to do is tirelessly point out which end is up and hope any of it sticks. Which is what everyone here on Skydancing, certainly you BB!, is already doing.

        Other than that… camp out in tent? I wish I knew!

        • dakinikat says:

          Well, I’m certainly not voting for this:

          Mitt Romney on Monday became the latest GOP presidential candidate to blast the Obama administration for new rules that would force all hospitals –including those run by the Catholic church– to provide workers health insurance that covers contraception, including sterilization.

          A page on Romney’s website asks supporters to sign a petition protesting “the Obama administration’s attacks on religious liberty,” saying the new rules amounted to an assault on personal rights.

          “The Obama administration is at it again,” Romney’s website said. “They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.”

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks everyone. I’m fine. This is just very overwhelming. I feel the same way Minx does I think–sort of like limp dishrag. I think everyone should forget this for now and have fun on Wonk’s grammy post. I really appreciate everyone’s support!!! You guys are great.

    • Woman Voter says:

      Exactly, and I demand to see Santorum’s uterus!

      • I demand to see his brain.

      • cwaltz says:

        I want to know why his daughter is allowed medical intervention. I mean, after all, God gave her the defective genes that make her little life so precarious. Why hospital and doctor visits? Maybe Santorum should just attempt to pray her better and accept the results as “God’s will.” That IS after all his position on medical intervention for young women who are raped. Acceptance of their fate as “God’s will.”

        The absolute hypocrisy of the man is astounding.

      • quixote says:

        “I demand to see his brain.”


    • NW Luna says:

      “Red-beanie set”

  2. quixote says:

    Of course they’re not appeased. They’re after power and they haven’t got all of it yet.


    Anyway, I just got on to say that I have to take a rest from this issue so I’m going hiking. I’ll be back in a few hours.

  3. Minkoff Minx says:

    Wow, so much to comment on…thanks for writing this Quixote…I need to come back when I have the time…

  4. cwaltz says:

    What pisses me off the most is the intellectual inconsistency applied to reproductive choice as compared to other medical decisions. Pregnancy is “God’s will.” Then what the f- is polio or pneumonia, or even trisomy if not “God’s will?” Is He not the creator of everything including these bacteria, viruses and mutations? Why are preventative and curative measures allowed in those instances? I mean if you want to get technical EVERYTHING can be seen as a result of God’s will. Who or what is to stop the powers that be from arguing that ANY intervention is interference with the will of God? And does most of America want a group of fallible men really deciphering for them what His will is?

    • dakinikat says:

      Yup! Nail meet head.

    • northwestrain says:

      Which is what I’ve been saying about cancer. Cancer is god’s will. If the righties want to fight their cancer then they are going to have to sell their souls to the devil — because science is the devil’s work.

      Science and Global warming — devil’s work. Also the righties can’t use cell phones — cell phones are the result of a whole lot of science. Science is devil’s work. Rename, repackage and use against them.

      • cwaltz says:

        One could argue and be intellectually consistent that science is God’s will, up to and including the introduction of D&C or birth control.

        It strikes me as incredibly arrogant and prideful for the church to suggest that their interpretation and theirs alone is what God wants.

        Anyway I definitely agree. Medical intervention should be an all or nothing proposition. Either you believe that God is okay with it in ALL cases or you believe that any condition be it pregnancy, cancer, or any other MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS is a result of God’s will and therefore should not be subject to tampering by anything more than simple prayer.

        Let the fundies pray themselves and their families better if they believe that God’s will means you should not be undertaking taking a pill or medical procedure and should just take whatever condition nature dishes out.

  5. janey says:

    there are some things more important than the right of 51% to vote on it. Racial discrimination, equal rights for women, gays. Religion is important but you cannot force others to believe your way. Wouldn’t that be nice?

    • quixote says:

      This is a vital point. Majority rule is for matter of opinion or policy. But it doesn’t and can’t be allowed to damage inalienable rights. I mean you could vote on it till you’re blue in the face, but slavery would still be a criminal and moral wrong.

  6. Just a couple of thoughts, for what they are worth.
    1- if Congress passes a bill that will allow ANY employer to remove access to birth control, I think some of those siding with the bishops simply because of “religious beliefs”, they may change their minds on the issue. After all, if they want birth control & they work for Domino’s and lose coverage???????? Might cause them to think twice. It becomes a NIMBY issue.

    2- I’m going to recommend the book The Serpent & the Goddess again. Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions were installed to counteract Goddess worship. The Serpent, who represents the Devil in the Old Testament, represented the circle of life in Goddess worship and was a favorite of the Goddess. There are other things JCI simply stole from earlier religions.

    3- has anyone read Jean Auel’s books, starting with the Clan of the Cave Bear? That book got me thinking about the time before patriarchal religion. Does anyone, with a functioning brain, think that early humans understood the hows & whys of the power of a woman to bring forth life? They didn’t know the connection between sex & pregnancy. And blood in their world – hunting, in particular – meant death. However, a woman could bleed every month and still live. Women, in the time before science, had the power to bring forth life & to bleed without dying. Who do you think was considered powerful??? Most likely women.

    Until patriarchy is outed for what it is – the need to control women – we will need to continue to fight all over the world. Women will never achieve personhood. Seriously, when Republicans have no problem trying to pass a law to make a fetus a person, yet continue to not recognize the personhood of women, we are screwed.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    What we are talking about here is Constitutional law. I thought this discussion by a legal expert at Balkinization was useful. He discusses the concept of “the politics of recognition.”

    The Obama administration is saying that access to birth control is a right. They’ve treated the Bishops like spoiled children having temper tantrums. If there is something more that should be done, then the people who are screaming about what Obama did should articulate what–pragmaticcally– can be done.

    • quixote says:

      Well, what Obama should have done is said, “This is a secular issue that is a matter of settled law. You may not discriminate.” End of story. There’s nothing unpragmatic about that. He’s sworn to uphold the laws, and that’s a pretty big one, and it’s the sort of action plenty of presidents have taken.

      The only problem for him was that he would have had to cope with godbags screeching at him during the election campaign. He would have got more votes by standing up to them. So even on that level of pragmatic, it was a dumb move. Although standing up to them has got to be stressful. Still, if he can’t stand the heat, he shouldn’t be in the kitchen.

    • ralphb says:

      Well BB, you’re going to be waiting a long time for an answer.

  8. Woman Voter says:

    Hillary Clinton: Mad As Hell/Bitch
    Shut The Freud UP and Geek Love were spot on with their observations and we should start pushing back. Calling out Santorum’s imaginary uterus! Stay out of our HEALTH ISSUES!

    • cwaltz says:

      I know some may consider it gauche. However, I’ll say this again. Someone needs to ask Santorum why he has sought medical intervention for his daughter’s medical condition. I mean it is God’s will that she have this genetic mutation. Why is he allowing doctors to interfere with God’s will on her disease progression? Surely a “Godly” man like him trusts God to keep her healthy and if she were to get sick then surely that too must be a result of “God’s will”

      Someone needs to break this down to believing in God being okay with medical intervention or God frowning upon man intervening on his wishes for someone to be pregnant, have cancer, get pneumonia, contract smallpox or any other medical condition.

      If you link pregnancy as a medical condition with other medical conditions then all of a sudden it sounds stupid to suggest that getting a surgery or taking a pill is interfering with God’s will.

  9. Minkoff Minx says:

    Wow, this has been an extraordinary weekend for the blog. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for the intense conversation…and thoughtful comments.

    I honestly can’t see straight…all this has been very exhausting. So I am going to sign off and come back and read everything later…nothing is making sense to me now.

    • dakinikat says:

      G’nite JJ! Thanks for your post this morning! It came straight from your heart and it showed!!!!

    • quixote says:

      What! All my limpid prose makes no sense? Say it ain’t so! 😆 😆 😆

      • northwestrain says:

        This is a great one two punch — MM begins — birth control pills aren’t just about sex you nitwit clan of the red beanies.

        Quixote follows up with some more punches direct at the read beanie clan.

        Both were on target.

        Men still hold all the cards — it’s better than it was when BB and I were much younger. Back then women in most states had to have their husband’s permission to start a business. Back then a wife’s earnings weren’t included in her SS with holding. That was a shocker to learn — a women in a professional art/craft magazine asked the SS administration about the status of HER contributions through the years — there was NO record for her — only her husband and his records listed her as his spouse.

        In the article I read about the men in the white house discussing what to do about the birth control dust up — there were NO (zero) women. It was noted that the female Sec. of Health and Human Services was there the day before and she was chastised by the dumb ass males in the white house. But the final discussion and decisions was ALL male.

        I’m voting for Roseann Barr — 0bama — never. Or I’ll write in Hillary Clinton — write in votes do count in my state.

  10. NW Luna says:

    Thx again to you great posters for taking the energy, time, and commitment to write searing posts. Your personal stories are evidence of the reality that women and their families live with every day.

    When you speak up, the Xian jihad looks even more like the unreality-based idiots they are.

  11. Stephanie says:

    To Wonk the vote at 11:20 p.m. — (I didn’t see a way to reply to your reply directly)

    Well, that’s why I said I agreed w/her point. There seems no rational way to respond to that intellectual, irrational, and dishonest inconsistency that she talks about, regarding some medical care is okay, but other medical care is not ok.

    I should have specified that I was responding to pregnancy as a medical “condition.” Since all the other conditions she lists can be considered diseases, I was reminded of the bishops earlier statement that pregnancy is not a disease.

    Of course since a woman can become ill while pregnant, as can the fetus, — both sometimes deathly ill, there does seem to be some small consistency on the part of the believers in god’s will — if the woman’s life is at risk, then the woman’s life must be risked and denied intervention to save the fetus. Apparently god’s will only effects women. Negatively, of course.

    • I hear ya, Stephanie.

      To lighten up the mood a little–

      In their estimation, it’s God’s will that all of us were born, so I don’t know why they bother arguing with us 😉

      • Stephanie says:

        Sky Dancing is one of the few blogs I visit where I bother to read the comments (or comment). I’ve lurked a long time before I even read the comments, let alone commented myself.

        Even tho I’m 60 and none of these reproductive rights issues can impact my own body, I’m shocked that we’re debating birth control in the 21st century.

        Yes, the god willed us to be born, deal with it.

      • Please keep delurking/commenting! It’s wonderful to hear from you.

  12. Sandress says:

    Damn. I’ve been political blog free for so long, and now that I’m reading them again, I feel like cutting myself. That said, you guys are kicking ass on this. I just forgot how depressing it was to give a shit.

  13. Greywolf says:

    I’m feeling a bit the same. I want to be informed, but the information out the is just do depressing. I’m still trying to find a new balance