The Wednesday Weigh-In: What’s your favorite right-wing argument against birth control coverage?

Does your boss have the right to dictate what kind of medical treatment you get?

That’s the big question the Supreme Court is considering next week, when it takes up two of the lawsuits brought by private companies against Obamacare’s contraception mandate. (Religious institutions, you’ll remember, already have an exemption.) Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are claiming that their religious beliefs should give them the right to withhold insurance coverage for some forms of contraception — as well as doctor’s visits that so much as discuss these options — from their employees. Put another way: “Are secular, for-profit corporations free to violate the rights of their employees by claiming that the law violates their corporate religious conscience?” 

So the stakes in this case are pretty effing high. And they could extend beyond contraception. What if your boss could cry “religious freedom” and get out of offering coverage for anything he disapproves of — from vaccinations to AIDs treatment for those “living in sin”? A very scary slippery slope.

But it’s birth control that has been the focus on the briefs submitted to the court by right-wingers. And boy, do they provide a revealing peak into the anti-contraception worldview. The National Women’s Law Center points us to some of the most ridiculous arguments (I use the term “arguments” loosely) put forth by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood’s supporters. I certainly couldn’t choose my favorite, but you should try.

1) Birth control lowers society’s “moral standards” and turns women into men’s “instruments.”

“Thus, it has come to pass that the widespread use of contraceptives has indeed harmed women–physically, emotionally, morally, and spiritually — and has, in many respects, reduced her to the “mere instrument for the satisfaction of [man’s] own desires.” Consequently, the promotion of contraceptive services — the very goal of the challenged mandate — harms not only women, but it harms society in general by ‘open[ing] wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.’ Responsible men and women cannot deny this truth.” – American Freedom Law Center

2) Sex is like stamp collecting or bowling — a purely optional luxury.

“Second, contraceptives may be considered no true necessity under certain circumstances, since sexual relations are basically a voluntary activity. If sexual relations were a true human need like breathing or food, then Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and many of the popes, would have all dropped dead within a few weeks (or days) of becoming celibate. But they didn’t, since sex is only a human want (like bowling or stamp collecting), not an actual need.” — David Boyle, a California attorney who submitted a brief on his own behalf (and who clearly needs to get laid)

3) By removing the fear of unintended pregnancy, birth control turns women into sluts.

The IOM Committee’s message is unmistakable. Female sexual activity without risk of pregnancy is to be encouraged by the contraceptive mandate, not only by making a wide range of contraceptives available, but by an education and counseling program designed to ensure that more and more women do not get pregnant unless “at the point of conception” they want to. … Through the prism of the Committee’s recommended contraceptive mandate, a woman’s well-being appears to be the maximization of sexual activity irrespective of marital commitment and unencumbered by the risk of pregnancy. — Eberle Communications Group, Inc., D&D Unlimited Inc., Joyce Meyer Ministries, Southwest Radio Bible Ministry, Daniel Chapter One, U.S. Justice Foundation, Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall, Institute on the Constitution, Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, Abraham Lincoln Foundation, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Policy Analysis Center

4) Providing birth control coverage is just like offering “murder-for-hire services.”

The mandate is akin to a “Hitman Compensation Fund” that “allows employees to withdraw money specifically to pay hired killers” – the employer would be “manifesting an intent to see that his employees would be able to pay for, and thus obtain, murder-for-hire services.” — National Legal Foundation

5) Birth control prevents women from becoming good wives and unleashes all the horrors that befall single women. 

“If the Government intends to broaden the definition of ‘women’s health and well-being,’ and thus the goal of the Mandate, to include non-health related concepts such as emotional well-being and economic prosperity, then it should likewise have considered the documented negative effects the widespread availability of contraceptives has on women’s ability to enter into and maintain desired marital relationships. This in turn leads to decreased emotional wellbeing and economic stability (out-of-wedlock childbearing being a chief predictor of female poverty), as well as deleterious physical health consequences arising from, inter alia, sexually transmitted infections and domestic violence.” — Beverly Lahaye Institute

6) Providing birth control coverage is just like buying “drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes for all employees.”

“Likewise, for religious purposes, there is a momentous distinction between an employer providing wages that an employee may use to purchase drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes, on the one hand, and the government compelling the employer to buy drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes for all employees on the other. ” — Coalition of Christian Universities

7) Truly independent ladies don’t even want birth control anyway.

“The Mandate advances the interests of only that subset of women who value free abortion drugs above public goods such as religious freedom and limited government. The Mandate works against the interests of those free-minded, independent women whose personal, moral, and political values lead them to support a different balance of policy considerations.” — Concerned Women for American – Susan B. Anthony List

Leave your pick in the comments!

Maya DusenberyMaya has been using birth control “procedures involving gravely immoral practices” for awhile now, and feels ok about it.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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