worlds best dad trophy

Missouri lawmaker sues to deny his daughters birth control access

worlds best dad trophyMissouri lawmaker Paul Joseph Wieland has brought one of the many cases against Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage benefit. But he’s not doing so in his capacity as a state representative. Nope, he’s doing it as a concerned overbearing father. Irin Carmon reports:

One Missouri lawmaker has taken the fight against birth control coverage to a new and very personal place: His own daughters, two of whom are adults.

State Rep. Paul Joseph Wieland and his wife Teresa are suing the Obama administration over its minimum coverage requirements for health plans under the Affordable Care Act, which includes contraception. They say the government is forcing them to violate their religious beliefs because they have three daughters, ages 13, 18 and 19, who are on their parents’ plan and might get birth control at no additional cost.

The Wielands’ case was filed before Hobby Lobby, and they claim that ruling has strengthened their argument. Their lawyer explains, “The employees are to Hobby Lobby what the daughters are to Paul and Teresa Wieland.” Which means the employer-employee relationship is apparently a lot more paternalistic than I’d imagined or the parent-daughter relationship is a lot more contractual. Either way, I’m unclear on why the government’s job should be empowering people to enforce their beliefs on others rather than ensuring equal freedom and access under the law.

As one of the judges hearing the case points out, parents do actually have more power to control their children than their employees — which is unfortunate to those of us who believe even young people have a right to autonomy. While their children are minors, parents have a degree of legal control over their lives. (Often, as in the case of state laws requiring minors to get parental consent before having an abortion, concern for “parental rights” unjustly — and sometimes dangerously — trumps young people’s reproductive freedom.) And even when their kids are grown up, parents like the Wielands are perfectly free to set rules and expectations — backed by threats of grounding or pulling financial support or kicking them out of the house or whatever coercive means they can dream up to keep their grown-ass daughters from daring to join the legions of Americans using birth control. But apparently that’s not enough. As Irin notes, the Wielands “are asking the federal government to enforce their parental guidelines on their daughters.”

An odd request from someone representing a party that claims to believe in small government, wouldn’t you say? And given the Wielands have made their parenting a matter of public concern, I have no qualms about offering some advice: If you need the federal government to enforce your rules, I doubt you’ve imparted the values you had hoped to. But don’t worry — when your daughters start having sex, they’ll be able to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy. Thanks to Obamacare, no thanks to you.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

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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