by Edd Doerr
Disgusting. That's the right word to use to describe the defense of misogynist ideology displayed at a congressional hearing a few days ago by a panel of five male clerics who were opposing the Obama administration's inclusion of birth control in the insurance programs of church-related hospitals, colleges and social service agencies. The Catholic bishops and assorted Religious Right leaders (all male, of course) elevated medieval theology over the health and freedom of religion and conscience claims of the vast numbers of Catholics and non-Catholics employed and/or served by these institutions. Virtually lost in the kerfuffle has been mention of the fact that these institutions are generously subsidized by taxes extracted from citizens of every religious persuasion.
Women make up at least 51% of the US population but only 17% of Congress. No wonder women's health and conscience claims get shortchanged. Then, too, women's voices are just not loud enough. In 2006 I conducted a survey (reported in The Nation) of the gender of the authors of letters to the editor published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Washington Times. Of the letters published in the New York Times 31% were by women, in the Washington Post 26%, and in the hyperconservative Washungton Times 15%. Replicating the survey three years later found very little change.
What we need, then, are more writers like Maureen Dowd, Gail Collins, and the late, incomparable ass-kicker Molly Ivins. We need to see more of the likes of Rachel Maddow, Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman-Schults, and Jan Shakovsky.
Fortunately, the HHS birth control battle has led to the creation of the Coalition to Protect Women's Health Care, a coalition of about 50 (so far) organizations such as AAUW, AFSCME, Catholics for Choice, EMILY's List, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. (Americans for Religious Liberty will join in a couple of days.)
More individual Humanist women -- and men -- need to get into this fight.