Pro-life women are taking on pro-abortion Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is claiming that women strongly support Obama’s new HHS mandate that forces religious employers to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
Helen Alvare, professor of law at George Mason University, and Kim Daniels, former counsel to the Thomas More Law Center, have issued a clarion call responding to Nancy Pelosi’s question “where are the women?” with a new campaign titled, “We Are Here.” They have drafted an open letter to pro-abortion President Barack Obama and Congress. The letter represents over 1,500 professional women who responded to personal requests to sign on to it.
In an opinion piece at National Review Online, Alvare and Daniels say:
We listened to prominent women purport to speak for us. We watched them duck the fundamental religious-liberty issues at stake. And we saw them assume that all women view cheaper contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs as unqualified good.
Those who invoke “women’s health” against those of us who disagree with forcing religious institutions or individuals to violate deeply held beliefs are more than a little mistaken — and more than a little dishonest. Even setting aside their simplistic equation of “costless” birth control with “equality” and “women’s health,” note that they have never responded to the large body of scholarly research indicating that many forms of contraception have serious side effects; or that some contraceptives destroy embryos; or that government contraceptive programs inevitably change the sex, dating, and marriage markets in ways that lead to more empty sex, more non-marital births, and more abortions. It is women who suffer disproportionately when these things happen.
No one speaks for all women on these issues. Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious-liberty issues at stake. We are proud to stand with the Catholic Church and its rich, life-affirming teachings on sex, marriage, and family life. We call on President Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and our representatives in Congress to respect religious voices, to respect religious liberty, and to allow religious institutions and individuals to continue to provide witness to their faiths in all their fullness.
The pro-life women have also launched a new web site where other women can join the campaign against the Obama mandate and sign on to the letter.
Alvare’ also issued a companion opinion article to the letter via a column at Public Discourse:
Equality or nondiscrimination laws will need to take precedence where, for example, a claimed religious practice requires physical harm to a class of persons. It will often be possible to reach a not terribly controversial conclusion in such cases about where human flourishing lies. It is wrong, on the other hand and for example, for the claim “birth-control insurance mandates mean equality for women” to trump religious freedom.
The evidence for the relationship between large-scale, government-driven birth control programs and women’s health and flourishing is highly contested. Support for this claim regularly comes from voices and groups with prior commitments to abortion as the sine qua non of sexual equality–a commitment that immediately suggests a lack of respect for logic, science, the human body, and women’s health. Furthermore, proponents of “birth control equals sexual equality” have steadily refused to grapple with the psychological or economic arguments about contraception’s possible role in women’s immiseration, given its obvious effects upon the dating, marriage, and sexual marketplaces. Such proponents won’t even speak of the published evidence of the harmful side effects of some commonly used contraceptives.
In an environment like this, therefore, not only is the “contraception equals equality” slogan unpersuasive–and unworthy to defeat religious freedom under the banner of “women’s equality”–but there is a strong case to be made that the witness provided by religious institutions plays a very important social role, a role even the government can understand and respect.
Citizens don’t have to agree with Catholic teaching about contraception in order to be sorry to see Catholic institutions chased out of the marketplace, or prevented from giving witness to their ideals about sex, marriage, and parenting.