Those of us who are fortunate to live in the US have spent the last week backing-and-forthing about the recent US Supreme Court decision involving the owners of a company called Hobby Lobby. These folks felt that the government mandating company health plans include certain kinds of contraception in violation of their religion.
This was no small case. Religious freedom in the US is a very serious point, largely due to the reason the country was founded in the first place, and one of the essences upon which it deigns to exist. Essentially, Hobby Lobby's owners' argument was that their religion does not permit them to become complicit in abortion practices.
In their brief filed at the Supreme Court, they said, "The Greens [Hobby Lobby's owners] believe that human beings deserve protection from the moment of conception, and that providing insurance coverage for items that risk killing an embryo makes them complicit in the practice of abortion."
Contraception is not abortion
But while we spent last week yelling about religious freedom and contraception and the first amendment and so on, we missed, largely, a big transgression which the anti-abortion folks have managed to get away with for far too long now: equating contraception and abortion.
Contraception is blatantly not abortion. Birth control is not abortion. In fact, anyone who really supports the idea of reducing the number of abortions in the world should be all in for contraception.
Getting into the nitty-gritty of this argument can be like trying to stop a flood with cotton-wool, because there is a section of society that defiantly believes a fertilised cell - as in, when a sperm hauls ass and finally gets to an ovum - should already be regarded as a person. Medically, a woman is not considered pregnant until said fertilised cell is implanted in the lining of the uterus, and there is good reason for this definition. According to experts up to 80% of naturally conceived zygotes do not implant, which would make God the sole largest killer of human babies the world has ever known. So it is hard to argue that preventing a fertilised cell from implanting is abortion, because whatever deity you worship flushes out up to four out of every five.
Furthermore, the science tells us contraception (including emergency contraception) does not harm an implanted fertilised cell, instead it suppresses ovulation - the man's swimmers are essentially lost in the Northern Cape. Ipso facto, this has the same consequences for the world as your average wank.
A serious matter
Although I disagree strongly with the anti-abortion crowd, I will readily admit it is a very deep issue and people - myself included - take it incredibly seriously.
However, women living their lives the way they want with as much sex as they deem fit for themselves with or without birth control should have no consequence on whether or not their medicine is covered by their anti-abortion employer. There isn't abortion, in this instance, to be anti.
“BUT WHY SHOULD WE PAY FOR THEIR SEX?” is another common retort. Well, that's how the entire health insurance market works. Insurance companies cover birth control because it is good business (or because law mandates they do), and attracts a customer base that makes up over half the population. Healthy people subsidise sick people.
Those who do not use medication subsidise those who do. It's the same way you end up paying for gender-specific treatments for the opposite sex, those who suffer from allergies that you don't, disabled people, those who exercise too much and bust their joints, smokers, obese people, addicts, people who don't exercise at all, those who eat too much red meat, ignore their doctors advice, drive drunk, require HIV medicine, those who work hard all day looking into a computer and therefore need glasses, and so on. (Oh, and men who can't get hardons anymore and require Viagra. Oh, and vasectomies. Damn horny men making us all pay for their sex!)
But due to the conflagration of contraception and abortion, and the strength of public feeling over the latter, the right of a woman to control what goes into and what is done to her body is being compromised. Particularly as it costs a good deal of money, and many women take birth control medication for reasons other than preventing pregnancy: oestrogen levels, menstrual pain, endometriosis and more can all be treated with such medicine.
Instead of noting the double-standard that allows horny men all the health insurance benefits they want (you know, consequence-free sex), and that there is nothing abortionny about the contraceptives in the Hobby Lobby case (according to science), and that birth control is used for many more issues than birth control, and that any basic notions of freedom would entail women deciding what to do with their own bodies, a significant section of society will continue to attempt to regulate the use of other people's vaginas.
And the first step we need to take in stopping vagina regulation is destroying this alleged congruency between contraception and abortion. There isn't one.
- Simon Williamson is a freelance writer. Follow @simonwillo on Twitter.
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