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Reproductive Rights Redux

Americans hate to be told what to do–even when it’s in our own best interests.

Today’s brouhaha over the Obama Administration’s decision to require employers to provide insurance fully covering birth control is a case in point.

Catholic employers are protesting that “It’s not the issue of contraception, but religious freedom,” according to today’s Washington Post, which quoted one Sister Carol Keehan as saying: “It’s not about preventing women from buying anything themselves, but telling the church what it has to buy, and the potential for that to go further.”

Let’s remember that no one is making women go out and buy contraception. The ruling is simply intended to make contraception, including the morning-after pill, available to all employees free of charge through normal employer health coverage.

Excuse me, isn’t this a great thing?

I remember when Viagra was first introduced commercially, women were outraged over the fact that insurance companies were willing to give men coverage to maintain their erections, but women who wanted to prevent pregnancy had to pay for it out of pocket.

And women’s contraception isn’t cheap! Whether it’s a diaphragm, an IUD, or hormone pills and implants, it’s expensive for women to opt out of reproduction. It’s not equivalent to a man picking up a condom over the counter at the drug store. All of the methods I’ve listed above involve visits to a prescribing doctor, which significantly ups the price.

Although men may beg to differ, I’d maintain that the question of reproductive freedom is of far more importance to women than erections are to men. An erection may come and go, but a child is here to stay. And a child has a far more powerful repercussion on her mother’s life than she does on her father’s life.

Both of my pregnancies were undertaken intentionally and with joy. I am not complaining, but it’s undeniable that having children has impacted my life much than it has affected my ex-husband (even when we were still together). I know this is not true for every couple, but it’s true for a lot of us women. Our gender still gives us a special extra role to play in bringing the next generation along.

And that’s a pretty important role! So why shouldn’t society help us to ensure that when we bring children into the world, it’s with our eyes wide open and every intention of taking our parenting seriously?

Making it more affordable for women to obtain birth control will increase the likelihood that more children will be born to mothers–and families–that are ready and able to support them. In this day and age, with 7 billion human beings crowding our Earth, that is an important goal in itself.

No one is advocating that we actually limit reproduction, as the Chinese have done, but at least let’s make it easy and affordable for women who want to postpone or avoid childbirth to do so.

The Obama Administration deserves our gratitude and applause for having the courage to turn the corner on this contentious issue. President Obama should hold his ground.

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