Restricting Access to Birth Control is Immoral by Katey Zeh

On a hot August day in 2012, I was taking my usual monthly trip to Walgreens to pick up my birth control prescription. As I pulled out my wallet to cover the co-pay, I was pleasantly surprised when the pharmacist informed me that I didn’t owe anything. It was the first month that the contraceptive mandate included in the Affordable Care Act required health insurance companies to provide contraceptives without a copay.


Over the years my birth control pills had cost me between $30-50 a month. It might not sound like much, but as a young professional working in the nonprofit sector, it was something I had to budget for carefully. I was also paying my own insurance premiums at the time. Throughout most of my twenties I worked as a contractor, which meant I didn’t qualify for employer-provided insurance, and with my limited budget, I had to settle for less-than-ideal coverage.

When I discovered that the cost of my birth control would be covered completely under my premiums, I wanted to show my appreciation to the Obama Administration. I quickly snapped a picture of my pharmacy receipt that showed my total as “$0.00” and posted in on Facebook with the simple phrase, “Birth control with no copay. Thanks Obamacare!”


The next morning I woke up to find my image had gone somewhat viral after the Planned Parenthood and Barack Obama social media teams had shared it on their platforms. I had a lot of support, but as you might imagine, the backlash was hellacious. I was incredibly grateful that I’d been wise enough not to capture any of my personal information in the picture I’d taken. Here are a few examples of the messages I got.

“I don’t want to pay for you to have the power to sleep around.”

“It really disgusts me that MY tax dollars are paying for other people to have protected sex and abortions. That money could go into my college fund or help pay for a car or help pay for medication that I actually NEED, but nope. The government decided that my money is better used to pay for someone else to have protected sex. I really hope you all enjoy spending MY hard earned money.”

There’s absolutely nothing factually accurate about these two comments from trolls–I was in a committed relationship and paying for my birth control prescription through paying my insurance premiums–but they do capture some of the most common arguments made against women having the ability to make decisions about our bodies and lives.

  • Women who have sex and want to avoid pregnancy should be shamed.
  • We should not do anything to support a woman making a decision about her life and body.
  • Any social program that supports women’s reproductive decision is a burden on taxpayers.

The pervasiveness of these beliefs and the disdain for women’s autonomy among white conservative men is why the Trump administration has no qualms about its plans to rescind this policy that has helped over 55 million women over the last five years. What is the premise of this decision? Religious freedom.

There is nothing moral about restricting a person’s access to the tools and resources they need to plan their lives, care for their bodies, and dream about their futures.

In March of 2014 I stood outside the Supreme Court building to speak my truth in protest of the argument of “religious freedom” used (successfully, I hate to say) in the Hobby Lobby case. I spoke these words:

As a young woman, a family planning advocate, and a Christian, I stand in solidarity with millions of women in this country whose access to contraception is at stake today.  I do this not in spite of my faith, but because of my faith.

I stand upon the firm foundation of my Methodist faith that has declared health care as a right, and access to contraception a moral good that enables women and couples to make responsible, ethical decisions about the timing and spacing of their families. To permit an employer to restrict that access through financial hardship or other means would impose upon my religious freedom—and the religious freedom of millions of other like-minded people of faith.

scotuszeh11.jpgWhat few people knew at the time was that when I gave that speech,  I was 10 weeks pregnant with my daughter who will turn three later this month. It was a planned pregnancy and a cause for joy in my life, even though physically I felt terrible. Looking back now I see how critical access to birth control was in creating the family I wanted. It allowed me to become a parent at the time that was right for me.

Isn’t that what all of us ought to be striving for?


RA82Katey Zeh, M.Div is a strategist, writer,  and speaker who inspires communities to create a more just, compassionate world.  She has written for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazinethe Good Mother Project, and the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion. She is the co-host of Kindreds, a podcast for soul sisters. Her book Women Rise Up will be published by the FAR Press in March of 2018.  Find her on Twitter at @kateyzeh or on her website

The Inalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness vs. the Right to Religious Freedom by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ photo michael bakasIn his speech announcing that he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana did not mention the issue of the so-called “right” to refuse service to gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals as one of the reasons this bill came to his desk. However, the idea that bakers could be “coerced” into baking cakes for gay weddings, photographers “required” to photograph them, and venue owners “forced” to provide space for them was frequently mentioned in discussions of this and similar bills. Governor Pence’s evident defensiveness during his press conference, and his repeated assertion that “this is not about discrimination” made it clear that an elephant was very much in the room.

Instead of defending the alleged “right” of religious individuals to discriminate against gay, lesbians, and transgendered individuals, Governor Pence invoked the right of employers to refuse to provide contraception to women as part of employee insurance plans, mentioning the Hobby Lobby and University of Notre Dame cases. If anyone has forgotten, in the Hobby Lobby case the Supreme Court decided that employers with a deeply held conviction that birth control is wrong do not have to offer it to their employees as required by federal law if “less restrictive” ways of providing it can be found.

Governor Pence apparently thought that openly defending the so-called “right” to discriminate against women is less controversial in his state than openly defending the so-called “right” to discriminate against lesbians, gays, and transgendered individuals. In fact, these two issues are linked in the minds of the people like Governor Pence. Continue reading “The Inalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness vs. the Right to Religious Freedom by Carol P. Christ”

The Declaration of Independence: A Misogynistic Mash-up of Greek Philosophy and Roman Law

Stuart WordPress photoRegardless of political identity in America there seems to be an almost religious reverence for the Declaration of Independence (DI).  By far the most quoted sentence from it is the one that begins “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  Though it is hardly ‘self-evident,’ the history behind the words in these two clauses betrays the fact that they constitute a misogynistic mash-up of Greek philosophy and Roman law.

First, the Greek philosophy in the first clause.  Precisely because of how often this portion of the DI is quoted (perhaps most memorably by Martin Luther King), the idea that there are ‘truths’ that are ‘self-evident’ may seem–self-evident.  From the perspective of the history of Greek philosophy, however, such an idea is as problematic as it is peculiar and for that very reason can reliably be traced back to one source: Plato.  The most likely direct source is the introductory section of an ancient Platonic commentary on Greek mathematical methodology.

Though relatively obscure today, it was a much admired work in the Renaissance and for a few centuries thereafter, influencing a wide range of disciplines, including law.  As a consequence of that influence law was conceptualized more geometrico (in a geometric manner), with legal documents drafted (as they often still are today) with a list of ‘defined’ terms first followed by the propositions to which they relate.  Similarly, judicial decisions still slavishly follow a quasi-mathematical methodology, ‘applying’ law to the ‘facts’ of the case, as if plugging numbers into an equation, with everything set out in a sequence of paragraphs identified by a combination of Roman numerals and arabic letters (‘as applied’ in Hobby Lobby (see the majority’s penultimate paragraph)). Continue reading “The Declaration of Independence: A Misogynistic Mash-up of Greek Philosophy and Roman Law”

Hobby Lobby, Not Invited at the Spiritual Negotiating Table by Qumyka Rasheeda Howell

Q HowellSupreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it best when she quoted Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey court case expressing her dissent on the Hobby Lobby decision made on Monday, June 30, 2014.

“The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that closely held companies with religious objections can opt out of providing contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court’s majority also rejected the Obama administration’s argument that for-profit companies cannot assert religious rights under Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  As the RFRA only refers to persons, closely held companies are designating themselves as persons in the case. Closely held companies such as Hobby Lobby are owned by one person or are family owned business and are not a publicly traded company. Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed with Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s dissent that companies do not have such rights – publicly traded on not.

The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was about asserting patriarchal power and retaining profit–not about religious freedom. The Obama administration argued that the contraception requirement was not a mandate because companies could have dropped their insurance coverage and offered their employees another insurance option. The truth to Hobby Lobby is they wanted to have the privileged advantage of tax breaks offered under the Affordable Care Act while securing more money by skirting the contraception requirement under the cloth of religious freedom. Continue reading “Hobby Lobby, Not Invited at the Spiritual Negotiating Table by Qumyka Rasheeda Howell”

%d bloggers like this: