Trampling On Freedom: Yes, But Whose?

If you are like me, you perhaps were greeted with the following image from yesterday.


The all older, male, predominantly white, witnesses testifying on the birth control benefit on Capitol Hill. Welcome to the sexist sausage party.


Of course, I immediately thought, hmm, another banking scandal cum testimony on the way? God save the banks. Of course, I was very wrong. What you are seeing here, if you haven’t already, is a still from the Capitol Hill Hearing on Obama’s most recent mandate on insuring birth control. Perhaps by now, you are experiencing the same feelings that I did when I saw a photo of an all-male witness stand that is speaking on birth control as a threat to religious freedom.

The hearing was not without its fraught moments. Led by Republican committee chairman, Darrell Issa, the panel was investigating whether or not Obama had hurt religious freedoms by the most recent mandate requiring health insurance companies cover contraception. The hearing, which consisted of an all male panel testifying in front of a predominantly all male committee (though later in the day, The Nation reports that ” two women on a later panel, Allison Garrett, the senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University and Laura Champion, a doctor at Calvin College Health Services were allowed to testify” ). However, early on in the day, there was not  a single woman testifying, a fact that garnered a huge amount of attention, and worsened by the fact that Issa effectively barred the only woman requested to testify. Representative Elijah Cummings asked to let the committee include the testimony of Sandra Fluke, a young Georgetown law student and the sole woman in the entire witness docket. Issa denied the request, stating, “The hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience”¦Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness,”  further stating that the witness was a “college student” who did not “have the appropriate credentials” to testify.

Issa further insisted that the hearing was about the infringement of religious rights and “liberty,” not contraception coverage, denying the further request of the panel’s women representatives. Chairman Issa rejected the one and only woman witness in the trial, one that came with a final appeal after a trial of nothing but male religious leaders.

If it had not occurred to you by now, then please allow me spell it out in a very calm way that will perhaps prevent my own unhinging by the seams from the undeniable anger I am feeling at this very moment. Women were barred from speaking at this hearing on an issue that is intimately ours. We were single-handedly told, whether conscious or not, by these panel members and by Chairman Issa that we are not experts on our own experience and that our concerns are petty in the face of what is being sold as “the attack on religious freedom.” So when both Representative Carolyn Maloney and Eleanor Holmes Norton walked out of the hearing in protest, I can do nothing but shake my head in agreement.

I don’t see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning.” –Representative Carolyn Maloney

Of course, if you want a little more open condescension with your sexism, a little salt in your wound, why not seek out the opinion of Foster Freiss, Rick Santorum’s Super PAC Backer, who I am still looking for the exact reasons of what exactly qualifies him to be speaking on MSNBC in regards to birth control.

Yes, yes, the good ole days. I think many us are very intimate with this argument, you know, the one where in back in their days, we had no rights. The one’s where women just put aspirin between their knees (and it was just so cute when some man said that’s what needed to be done). Yes, the good ole days, the phrase in which every one of these men seem to be slipping into the conversation as if things were just so much better back when women were still allowed to be legally raped and murdered by their husbands, possessing birth control was something that could land you in jail, and dieing from an abortion because you didn’t have access to birth control was just, well, the norm. The good ole days. Sure. But for who?

I know that some people are out there saying that they do feel that there religious freedom is close to being violated, that they feel that this measure is a slippery slope, and that they as religious people, do not necessarily agree with this decision. I agree with their decision to feel this way. However, I cannot sit here today, looking at this panel, looking at these videos and think, yes, this is about religion. I cannot sit here and understand the logical fallacy that the GOP voted on contraception for wild horses, but will do anything to keep it away from actual people. I cannot sit here, looking at the state of reproductive rights in this country, where today in Virginia and Texas, there are not one but two bills going up to circumvent the protection that Roe v. Wade offers: the first, a bill requiring the use of forrced trans-vaginal ultrasound for all those seeking abortions (to which I recommend Governor Bob McDonnell looking up Virginia’s § 18.2-61. Rape. Definition) and the other, an egg-personhood bill that not only intends to outlaw abortion for everyone (incest, underage, and rape victims included), but also forms of hormonal birth control.

Moreover, I cannot sit here, with the experience that burns in my memory, of going to my local pharmacy when I was a mere eighteen years old and having a pharmacist not only deny me my prescribed birth control, which I had already paid for, but who then recommended I just keep my legs closed, in front of everyone who had moseyed in to pick up their Viagra, heart medication, and hemorrhoid cream, with nary a problem and of course, no workplace or legal recourse. I cannot have faith in these people who are doing everything they can to take something away from me, something that is part of my autonomy, as well as thousands of other, in anyway which way it presents itself, whether its under the umbrella of religious freedom or health concerns, especially not when the only witnesses brought are those still opposed to the new measure, who just happen to be men with a capital M in the power politic.

No, I cannot.  Because when its asked, “Where are the women?” I can no longer assume a good faith policy. Because this may be a war, but it most certainly is not a war of religion.



61 thoughts on “Trampling On Freedom: Yes, But Whose?”

  1. You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see the people in power putting a fraction of this energy into enforcing child support. There is such a big push to make sure babies are born, whether they are wanted or not, but no one is addressing the issue of what will happen to those babies who end up with deadbeat parents who leave and ignore their child support obligations.

  2. The only good thing about this photo is the huge backlash it’s getting on the internet. Or at least, in my FB feed. The caustically sarcastic responses I’ve seen are fabulous. What better way to visually represent what is fucked up about this mess? A picture is, truly, worth a thousand words.

    1. Unfortunately, not everyone is seeing why it is an issue. I’m having to deal with family members who insist it is about religious freedoms. Yes, there are jackasses among the voters as well, not just the religious leadership. Of course, these jackasses are also male and white, so of course they don’t see a problem.

      Sigh. I think I’m going to turn off facebook for awhile.

  3. There are two things that will make me sound like a blabbering idiot incapable of forming a complete sentence: photos of extremely hot, shirtless men, and politics and religion. I watch clips and read articles and the only words that come to mind are “What the…are you fucking kidding me?” Some of the stuff that people think and say…it’s just beyond me. Like how does a reasonable, logical human being come up with this stuff? And then I remember that they’re just neither reasonable nor logical therefore you cannot argue with them using either logic or reason.

    I just don’t even understand why things like birth control and same-sex marriage are even up for political debate.


  4. This is infuriating. Words cannot express my fury and just ARGH! But what I always say to people is to VOTE for people who wont screw with us. Women and men who actually take science and facts into consideration not feelings and religion. I know it gets hard when you go out and vote and the jerks still win but we must not give up. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. Really, the extremists have arsenals of people who are going out and voting on election day. Us reasonables need to counteract them. Support people like Elizabeth Warren not career politicians who at this point, are only in Congress to build their stock portfolios.

    1. Oh boy. I feel you. Being a woman of color, boy, do I know. Also, they passed the bill agaisnt gender and race discrimination in abortions. Which I think its another sly way to deny abortion to poor women of color. Because really, a black woman getting an abortion is going to get a lot more hassle, when the bill goes into effect. She might be accused of racism, aborting her fetus because of its race. Its one of those Im-looking-out-for-you-but-really-Im-just-fucking-you-without-you-realizing kind of laws.

      I cant believe it is 2012 and we are still fighting about reproductive rights.

      1. The signs that went up in southside of Chicago, Atlanta, and NYC ( as well as the Fredrick Douglas bill I think it was called? The one where it was “racially protecting” potential fetus’s)  that were targeted at woc were ABHORRENT.  It was a manipulation and it was like, oh I’m sorry, you now care about poc?

        Yea, change the other 456387 million things that make life systematically difficult for woc and poc and maybe I will potentially begin to believe you guys.

  5. …freedom of religion means YOU have the right to practice YOUR religion. It doesn’t mean you have the right to make the GOVERNMENT practice your religion, too.

    THIS THIS THIS.  I’m continually boggled that such a huge amount of people (or at least a number of people with really big megaphones) can’t get that through their brain.

    On a positive note, the Supreme Court of Canada basically said just that today, though in a totally different context.  A couple of parents of Catholic kids in Quebec wanted to opt out of Quebec’s ethics and world religions course, on the grounds that by talking about other religions the province was intruding on their rights to educate their kids on Catholicism and Catholicism only.  Supreme Court said no:

    Exposing children to a comprehensive presentation of various religions without forcing the children to join them does not constitute an indoctrination of students that would infringe the freedom of religion…

    Sense!  Reason!

    1. Ok. So, I’m more than a little baffled by the not wanting kids to learn about other religions bit. I went to Catholic school for years and years and as part of my religious ed. classes, we visited a synagogue and listened to a lecture from a rabbi there and discussed the belief systems of several other world religions. One of the local churches has a garden featuring sculptures from a artists of a number of races and religions and is meant to be a place to encourage understanding, tolerance, and peace. There is no Catholic mandate to be ignorant about other people’s faiths.

      Bigots will be bigots though. And Christianity is a great pillar to hide behind because of the cultural privilege it holds.

      1. What kills me though is that “christianity” presented is not what I have always known as ” being christian”. I have a few friends who are women Episcopalian pastors who identify as “being christian”, not christians, because the idea is that you are actively pursuing the tenants that jesus was all about (um, love and shit)  as opposed to living in a default manner. I dont think everyone feels that way, but it struck me as a really interesting way to look at trying to pursue actions as opposed to always embodying them.

        But I don’t view christianity as the way its circle  jerked in the states. When I think of christianity, Im like, oh jesus- the arab-jew socialist who hung out with sex workers and was kind of a hippie and was like, hey don’t be an ASSHOLE to anyone who might be different from you because life is short and we need to be good to one another, dig?  I look at it as a super powerful institution that is about power.


  6. I gotta say, it’s still difficult for me to come up with anything more intelligent than swears right now.  It’s wrong on so many levels, I feel like it’d take me an hour to go through all the reasons.

    So all I can seem to say right now is that the GOP needs to go fuck themselves.

  7. I’m just .. from hanging around here and on other America-centered sites I know of all this stuff, but I just continue to shake my head over it. How can the Land of All Possibilities, of Be What You Want To Be and Do What You Have To Do To Get There deny half of it citizens these rights? How can people who say they follow an all-loving God not help women with their health and their life? This isn’t an attack of a religion, it’s supporting humans. Those you need for religion to survive and prosper?

  8. By way of introduction (first post!): short-time Persephone lurker, long-time Blog-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named lurker, and recovering political staffer here.  Hi everybody!

    Despite my “recovering” status, I still follow politics pretty regularly and even blog about it a lot. Choice issues are near and dear to my heart, and I was pretty horrified by what I read yesterday regarding these hearings. I think it was Sen. Lautenberg who recently coined the phrase “male-igarchy,” which pretty well sums up what’s happening in Congress right now: a bunch of dudes are not only reinforcing but re-creating and strengthening the pre-existing sexist hierarchy that our government has been victim to since its founding. The idea that there would be a debate even vaguely referencing birth control – and this one had the BC issue front and center – that actively banned women from participation is so ludicrous I almost can’t believe it happened.  Big props to Reps. Norton and Maloney for saying “f*** this s***” and bouncing with a quickness.

    At some point, I really hope that Congress learns that freedom of religion means YOU have the right to practice YOUR religion. It doesn’t mean you have the right to make the GOVERNMENT practice your religion, too.  Nobody is being forced to take or pay for BC. Religious institutions don’t have to pay for anything. They don’t have to agree with it or support it or say that it’s right. They don’t have to start providing birth control (although any doctor will tell you there are lots of reasons to prescribe hormonal therapies that have the same formulations as “birth control” for a variety of conditions). They don’t have to tell their congregations to take it. In fact, they can keep on talking about how awful they think it is. Nobody’s freedom of expression, religion, or exercise of faith is being challenged. These religious institutions are pissed off because the government is now independently providing their employees with a means to get birth control, and they would rather their employees not use birth control. But the laws of our nation say that you can’t require that of an employee, and so religious institutions are pissed. Well, too bad. The government, and the people, have rights too – rights that are not only reserved for religious institutions.

    Sorry for the rant, but I can’t with this anymore.

    1. Amen. This knee-jerk response to anything that might even remotely affect these men’s religious beliefs is just utterly ridiculous. I want the Republicans of the 1970’s back, please! The ones who actually considered more than their own selfish and personal desires when it came to policies that affected others.

  9. I know I was the most verbal about side-eyeing this bill in the last post on it, but it really does piss me off when it’s all men talking about it. It especially angers me when any woman who wanted to testify was told no. I might not agree with the wording of the bill, but I also don’t agree with removing women from the process of creating, changing, and fixing any bill that involves our bodies.

    1. I think you added serious value to the conversation with a point that not many-including myself would originally consider.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that oh, that does make sense, but of course, I am human and suffer from that condition of “BUT WHY DO YOU NOT COMPLETELY AGREE WITH ME”. Its a hard subject and it gives people feelings , but I do think there’s a huge difference as you say between being skeptical towards the wording of the bill versus how the bill is currently being dealt with.

      1. Haha yeah, it happens. Politics is touchy enough but when you also through women’s rights (I know, technically politics, but I think it’s important enough to be its own thing) and religion into the mix, things get way out of hand with feelings really quickly, and it’s hard to discuss things without feeling completely in the right or slightly attacked because you don’t completely agree with everyone else.

        Though I must say I completely agree with you on this one! :P And I’m glad that after awhile we could all see each other’s points. This is why I love this website.

  10. It fills me with such rage to see a panel of MEN talking about this, to the exclusion of women. I tried to “understand” that they were there to talk about the religious implications, but that is only one small part of the overall attack on women’s reproductive rights. Can we have a “call to arms” about this and take down those who would deny us the ability to make our own decisions? I’ve never been one to take to the streets in protest before, but this might just be the one to get me out the door!

    Anecdote: Last night my mom and I were talking about why contraceptives should be covered. Having just come from picking up my latest pack of BC pills, she used me as her example – “see, you just got yours, why shouldn’t everyone have to pay for it?” I spent the next 20 minutes explaining privilege to her. Yes, I am privileged enough to be a) have a doctor willing to prescribe it to me, b) have insurance so that it was only $45 instead of $220, c) a pharmacist who was willing to dispense it, etc.. There are so many other women out there who are not as privileged, and probably need access to it worse than I do. And, it’s not all about birth control, but that these medications et al, are used for other medical ailments (my own PCOS being a prime example). I know you all know this already, but it was astounding that my mom couldn’t see past her own station in life to see that what was at stake affects FAR more women than just me or her.

    1. And even being lucky to have insurance, sometimes that $45 is big deal. I work in retail, and while my insurance coverage is quite good, my salary is not enough to support me on its own. I’m sure there are many others out there that have decent coverage, but a high co-pay is a barrier when you’re only making 9 or 10 bucks an hour.

    2. Personally, I have to go to my county care clinic to get affordable bc pills. I don’t have a non-hormonal option to care for myself, because I have pretty advanced and painful endometriosis. Just because it is ALSO a contraceptive doesn’t take away the necessary, and only available, treatment for endo.

      Not that I have a problem with contraceptives for contraceptives’ sake, obviously, I just don’t understand how that whole aspect of the use of birth control is completely ignored.  GARRGHHHH!!!

      1. I think its easily ignored because 1. Older men used to making decisions about whats best for anyone who uses birth control for whatever reason and 2. Because why have critical thinking skills when you can just presume that birth control is part of a Bachanal satanic ritual meant to overthrow good morals.

  11. Thank you for this, Coco. I’d be hearing a lot about this, and this has been a great overview to read. I always tend to say this on these types of posts, but I am more grateful that ever for being in the UK and having access to these types of things when I wish. Really do hope the situation changes for the better, for you guys.

  12. I just don’t understand, we already make religious exceptions, or have done so in the past, and we already force religions to do things that violate their “principles” or “religious tenets.”

    The Catholics were allowed access to wine during prohibition because of their religious “requirements” in order to complete the Eucharist. Native American tribes are forced to break federal and state drug laws because the SCOTUS says that peyote is not “required” for religious ceremonies, even though it is. The fucking (I don’t know if we are allowed to curse here, so apologies if I broke my first rule) Mormon Church had to full on re-write and re-interpret their FOUNDER’S requirement to take multiple wives in order for Utah to become a state.

    I guess my whole point is when do we stop raging and start marching? Are we going to need to stop having sex for the men in this country to get a clue?

    1. At least based on your examples, what this tells me is that good Christians obviously have a valid religion that needs to be respected and not forced to change for political/secular reasons, but all other religions obvs don’t matter and don’t get any exceptions.

      1. Which is even more pathetic because of the Anti-Catholic under current that has been prevalent in this country since it’s founding (basically).

        Essentially you’re right though. There would never be a bill or hearing in Congress over the rights and obligations of Hindu employees and cows. NEVER. I’ll eat my rain boots the day it happens.

        1. Well, you know, Catholics might not be real Christians, and they may all take orders unquestioningly from a man in a silly hat, but they are still a white man power house. And they are proving to be an easy crutch to lady hating on this one. Not sure how we got through on the wine though.

    2. It’s cause only certain religions/religious causes are championed in the name of “religious freedom,” and others are just put down as “unnecessary” or even “immoral.”

      It’s like, it is perfectly okay for people to put crosses on public property, but Stars of David have been taken down. And when people said the crosses shouldn’t be allowed on public property, people cried murder on religious freedom. …But freedom for whom? Certainly not the Jewish folks who wanted to put THEIR religious symbol on public property.

      And it is my understanding that cursing is fucking fine. :)

      1. Thats the thing that rattles me. I just have a hard time looking at these efforts and not thinking, ” Yes, but what about the NYC Islamic center debacle? Or the fact the stars of david have been vandalized? Or that Sikh’s are attacked for wearing turbans?” Its hard for me to swallow the idea that one of the most powerful religious institutions in America to say their religious freedoms are being attacked. It marginalizes the very real religious persecution that many people are dealing (um anti-shariah laws anybody?)

        That being said – I do not think institutions represent their people, which makes me even more frustrated, because I know Catholic folk are looking at this situation and thinking, ok, but really? I just don’t think that large institutions, especially ones with bad track records (and run often by older, white men) are the best judges of what is good for everyone under one umbrella.

        Also, I say fucking like its making me money and the rent is due tonight. So please, be my guest.

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