Who Decides?

Can you stand a few more observations about the Supreme Court’s birth control decision and women’s reproductive rights in this, the 21st Century?

The amount of disinformation about abortion–and the use of that disinformation by cynical Republican operatives–is fairly widely known. I’ve previously quoted religious historian Randall Ballmer for the actual genesis of the “pro life” movement.

Ballmer points out that it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, goaded by Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion as “a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term.” Being against abortion was “more palatable” than what was actually motivating the Religious Right, which was protection of the segregated schools they had established following the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

So much for the “moral outrage” that presumably prompted the movement.  A number of political scientists and sociologists attribute its continued salience to an equally unlovely motive: keeping those uppity women in their place: the kitchen and bedroom. (When women are able to plan their families and manage their reproduction, they can enter the workforce, and if necessary, leave abusive husbands.) 

Those pious concerns about women’s health have always been dishonest; abortion is far safer than childbirth. A recent study reported by the New Yorker further confirms that claims about later regrets or emotional problems following abortion are simply fabrications.

If there was any doubt about the pro-Republican, anti-woman animus motivating attacks on women’s reproductive autonomy, the Supreme Court’s birth control decision should dispel it. 

As both Justice Ginsberg and the New York Times Editorial Board pointed out, between 70,500 and 126,400 women will immediately lose access to no-cost contraceptive services.

The Trump administration has been attacking both the A.C.A. and access to birth control since the moment President Trump took office. On the latter front, its most successful effort before this week was to gut the nation’s decades-old family planning program, called Title X, in an explicit effort to cripple Planned Parenthood. All of the administration’s efforts on this front have most directly affected poor women and women of color.

As Nancy Papas noted, in a trenchant comment to my previous post on the subject, denying women access to birth control makes no sense (unless, of course, your goal is to erect barriers to female equality). Less birth control means more unwanted pregnancies and abortions, more unwanted children (and increased levels of child abuse). Employee health declines; employee absenteeism rises–and more children on a family plan means higher cost health insurance premiums.

There’s another cost that rarely is factored in: these decisions are “exceptions” to the American concept of liberty.

The Bill of Rights is often described as a list of decisions and behaviors that government must respect: individuals have the right to decide for ourselves what books we will read, what–if any–Gods we will worship, who we will marry and whether and how often we will procreate, among other things. The Courts have routinely referred to such decisions as “intimate” and ruled that government interference with them is illegitimate and unconstitutional. Those same Courts have carved out de jure exceptions for abortion, and now, what amounts to a de facto exception for birth control.

Here’s a thought: states with progressive legislatures (not Indiana, unfortunately) should partner with health insurance companies to establish a fund that would provide low-or-no cost birth control for women who work for these anti-woman “religious” companies. The women should apply directly, eliminating the need for the “religious” owners to be “complicit.” (I guess it doesn’t bother them to be “complicit” in worsening the health of women who take birth control medication for reasons other than contraception–but then, logic and honesty aren’t involved in these decisions.)

Here’s another thought: if America had a single-payer system like the 36 countries that pay less for health outcomes superior to ours, government wouldn’t allow employers to impose their religious beliefs on employees who don’t share them.


  1. Trump and his Supreme Court have forced us to view Roe v. Wade through a different lense. The Court will do everything it can to limit abortions or make them too incovenient for them to be an option for poor women. It would make SO Much less stress on the women and on the PP clinics to just distribute effective contraception to everyone who wanted it and which is not dependent on male cooperation. Then the woman never has to worry that she’s caught unprepared or has to convince the man to wear protection. This is safer than childbirth and helps poor women who already have children and can’t afford others.

  2. Nancy, I believe that your suggestion is what is done in Colorado. The program has resulted in, I believe, cutting the number of teenage pregnancies in half, and a nearly comparable reduction in abortions.

  3. One more comment. In 1982 the writer, Ursula LeGuin gave a talk about her getting an abortion prior to Roe v Wade. It is reprinted in her book Dancing at the Edge of the World. It is worth reading.

  4. Conservatives have demonstrated over and over again that the only room they want free from government intervention is the board room.

  5. Peggy,

    Agreed. But the people who push for judges to overturn Roe v. Wade are NOT conservatives. They are MUCH too backward-thinking to carry such a label. These pathetic hypocrites have bullied the Republican party (not that difficult a task) and driven them into the arms of their corporate sponsors who bribe them too. These people are NOT conservatives. They are dupes of those promoting the ancient pogroms that control women and make them subservient to men. Plain and simple.

    It remains the purview of white, male Christian men to control a woman’s rights and her body. They are taught to do that from the day they hit the ground by their fearful, backward-thinking churches who need a wedge issue to keep their flocks putting money in the plate. Why else would they have elected Trump? “He’ll give us the judges we want.”

    And all this concerns what percentage of women? The overall population? So once again, we have an ideological minority trying to control, by way of law, the rights of the majority, irrespective of their need or desire to not only have an abortion, but to use contraception. My final question in this rant is: Why do these backward people want more babies in the world when they aren’t willing to cough up the money or the ideas to support them after they’re born? I believe it’s the hypocrisy of their politics driven by Republicans seeking more power while having no worthwhile ideas for the rest of us.

  6. Whoever makes these decisions; none of them seem to understand that a health care insurance policy does NOT REQUIRE ALL COVERAGE BE USED BY THE INSURED. I haven’t yet needed Viagra, erectile dysfunction supplies and the vast majority of coverage which is available to me. I no longer need birth control and am not employed but my granddaughters and great-granddaughters do need the availability and through their employees would be a benefit. But; is there any way employers can STOP or PREVENT employees from obtaining the prescription and pay for it themselves,which is what they should be doing. I do not agree with free birth control; that is an option the same as private education, they are personal choices and should be paid for by those who chose those options.

    I would agree with employers if they demanded they NOT pay for birth control…or Viagra and erectile dysfunction supplies which are approved even by Medicare to keep old men sexually active.

    “If there was any doubt about the pro-Republican, anti-woman animus motivating attacks on women’s reproductive autonomy, the Supreme Court’s birth control decision should dispel it.”

    Consider VOTE BLUE NO MATTER WHO as a surgical option to remove evangelicals, Republicans and now SCOTUS from our vaginas.

  7. I had heard that Indiana only allowed the teaching of abstinence as a method of Birth Control. My high school grandson confirmed this. Birth Control or Family Planning should be taught in the schools. The methods that can be used to prevent pregnancies and STDs should be presented to the students. A teen pregnancy will be a life changing event for the woman, they should know this. The opportunities that a pregnant teen woman may have had will vanish. The birth father can walk away.

    I suppose the bible thumper’s are worried that porn films and Hustler Magazine will be used as a part of the curriculum.

    The idea of abstinence only dovetails a with The Trumpet saying if we tested less, there would not be so many cases of Corona. Deny it and it does not exist.

  8. So next we allow church run schools and churches access to our medical recoords so they can detrmine if we are using contraception of any kind which would be contrary to their doctrine and thus prevent our children from attending their schools and us from being members of said churhes.

  9. Authoritarians have to control and government interferes with their control by protecting our freedom. Nobody has more freedom, so mine ends where yours begins. Culturally authoritarianism, like the Y chromosome, is passed from male to male in families. It is self-sustaining.

    That’s the country in a nutshell.

  10. Birth control pills were prescribed for me by our family doctor as a 13 yr old to control severe cramps and absolutely irregular menstrual periods, with the blessing of my parents. It was purely for medicinal purposes to keep me from being bedridden for a couple of days at a time every couple of weeks. The blood loss made me anemic. The embarrassment of bleeding through my clothes, was horrifying for a young girl.

    So there is a reason for birth control, other than simply preventing pregnancy. As a grown woman now, I believe that it is and should be, ONLY the woman’s choice (with her doctor’s advice) to take/use birth control, no MAN should have the sole decision regarding availability. Unfortunately the hierarchy in this country on the Supreme Court and in most board rooms of insurance companies, happens to be male.

    As for Roe v. Wade, until way more emphasis is placed on adoption, that leaves abortion as the course of action for unwanted pregnancy. Granted, abstinence is an option, but please all, remember the raging hormones you/we all had in our youth. The reality is that abortions will occur whether anyone likes it or not. Do we all want girls/women being forced into those back alley abortion clinics again? It will happen again, supply and demand, will cause those places to spring up again. I would like to ask any man with a teenage daughter, do you really want your precious little girl to come home pregnant…will you lock her in her room until she is 18 as your way to prevent unwanted pregnancy? I am a product of adoption and was raised by two very loving parents, who gave me every opportunity to become a productive adult. Had my birth mother been forced to keep me, shunned by her family because she had shamed them, who knows what kind of life I would have lived. Poor housing, poor education, hunger, all sorts of negative things that I should never had to endure, because my teenage mother made a bad choice.

    A number of years ago, a friend took her 14 yr old daughter to an abortion clinic and was met with protesters calling this child “Murderer” as she and her mother entered the clinic. Not a single one of them was offering to take the child in during her pregnancy and then offering to raise the baby themselves……they just wanted to accuse, shame and not offer an alternative that might have worked for this girl. Nobody should judge until they have walked in those shoes.

    There is a lot of things that should be taught in school about real life…it isn’t all just the book learning that our kids need. And the people in position of leadership in our country need to really look to their own daughters and what they want for them when the unwanted pregnancy occurs.

    I apologize to the regular readers on this post that I am not near as educated and enlightened as may of you are. I apologize for the ultra personal portrayal of my life, but I have always been discouraged at how very little emphasis gets placed on adoption, when I am so, so very thankful that was the option my birth mother chose. Take the conservative white men out of this situation and then let’s see what we get……I am voting blue no matter who in November!

  11. “I apologize to the regular readers on this post that I am not near as educated and enlightened as may of you are.”

    No apology necessary. Your writing is poignant, highy appropriate for this conversation. Thank you for your comments.

  12. Robbie Dunn, I appreciate your views. Thank You.

    As a man, I don’t think I really should have a say in what choices a woman should or has to make.

    Abortion is just one more hot botton “What About….” issue to create fear in potential voters so that will be movtivated to vote against their own best interests. Thanks for the history lesson again.

    Along the lines of JoAnn Green’s comment just because same sex marriage is an option, doesn’t mean you will be forced to marry same sex, but you have the option if you want to.

  13. Sometimes a law has ancillary effect beyond its intended target, and so it is with single payer coverage, and women’s healthcare is one but by no means all of the reasons I am for a single payer healthcare system a la nearly all of the civilized world (and this assumes that we can be said to be “civilized” these days). See the effect of employer paid healthcare coverage (and no ACA backup) for those who are unemployed these days. They have no coverage. One cancer or car wreck wipes out their retirement savings and perhaps equity in their homes along in some cases with another medical bankruptcy which stiffs general as well as medical creditors.

    A good example of positive and ancillary effects of a statute is the New Deal law providing federal insurance for bank accounts. Unlike during the Depression, we haven’t had a bank closing since, which was the primary purpose of such law, but the positive effect of such law extended to another area. The money that was hidden under mattresses for fear of a bank closing went to the banks and thus increased their lending capacity, which in turn fostered desperately needed economic activity and growth.

    So? So yes to single payer for its lesser costs and better coverage – and to its salutory side effects in re women’s healthcare and with lesser costs more wherewithal to stoke demand, no need to save for medical emergencies etc. etc. etc. Insurance company forays into healthcare coverage have only been around since Nixon gave his Kaiser buddies from his home state of California the green light in 1973, and I’m sure they will find other ways to invest their capital after their profiteering era in America’s healthcare system is history. Let’s do single payer now.

  14. Robbie Dunn; you are woman, I’m glad to hear you roar from your position of experience that few women have. Birth control pills were not available till after my 4th child; I was allergic to the estrogen so couldn’t use them. After my 5th child at age 34 with severe “female problems” I needed my husband’s permission to have corrective surgery in 1970 and and 18 months later in 1972 needed a hysterectomy and that also required his permission. We are moving back to those “good old days” of wives being kept barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.

    You stay with us; you spoke words of wisdom and experience. Thank you and stay safe!

  15. I really appreciate Sheila’s commentary. But friends can disagree and boy do I disagree here.

    I never understood the liberal argument that people who oppose abortion do so because they want to keep “uppity women in their place” or “control women’s bodies.” I’ve been around pro-life people all my life, including pro-life political activists.. Most pro-life organizations are headed by women. Women often poll as every bit against abortion as men and in some polls more so. (The demographic group which often polls as the most supportive of women’s abortion rights are men 18-30. Want to guess why? ) I have never met anyone in the pro-life movement who expressed anything remotely as close to the liberal stereotype that pro-lifers hold their views because they want to control women. (I do acknowledge that some pro-life legislators push the envelope on intrusive measures but that’s about anti-abortion zealotry, not because they’re trying to control women.) Many stereotypes have some element of truth. That one does not.

    Virtually everyone I met in the pro-life movement (and, again, most pro-life activists are women) sincerely believe that the fetus is a distinctive, individual human being. There are plenty of feminists, liberals, even atheists who are pro-life.

    For me, my position on abortion has nothing to do with religion. It came as a result of doing a research paper in a health science class I was taking at Ball State. The paper was on prenatal development. In writing the paper I consulted a number of scientific publications on the issue. I came away 100% convinced that a fetus was not a blob of cells, but a distinctive human being.

    Given my libertarian tendencies, if I was for one second convinced that the abortion issue just involved what a woman wanted to do with her own body, I’d be 100% supportive of abortion rights. But the science of prenatal development tells me the issue is much more complicated – that the issue involves is a distinctive human being, not just a blob of cells, growing inside the woman. What is so ironic is that while liberals decry conservatives for rejecting science, when it comes to the issue of abortion, they want to nothing to do with the science of prenatal development.

    On this issue, due primarily to the SCT taking the issue away from being decided as a policy matter, we have not been able to reach reasonable compromises. Obviously we’re not going to ban abortion from the point of conception. But just as obviously, at least for more people, allowing abortion up until birth is just as unacceptable. Thus, the issue we should have been resolving all these years is where do you draw the line during the nine months of pregnancy…at what point do you say that the interest in the developing human being living outweighs the very real interest the woman has in bodily integrity.

    Roe v. Wade drew that line at six months. (But states could go to 9 months if they wanted, and, pursuant to Doe v. Bolton, abortion after six months had to be allowed in cases where the woman’s physical or mental health is threatened by the pregnancy.) Planned Parenthood v. Casey later modified the six month line set by Roe by going to one slightly earlier – fetal viability, i.e. the point at which the fetus can live outside the uterus. That is a date that continues to move backward slightly as medical science advances.

    The problem with Roe v. Wade is that it short-circuited a necessary political debate in this country and resulted in both sides being polarized, taking the most extreme positions on abortion because, frankly, they could because the issue was no longer subject to the democratic process. If Roe would not have happened, we as a country would be much further along in resolving this issue with respect to where in the 9 month time frame, developing life should be protected.

    The problem with Roe/Planned Parenthood v. Case as policy (as a legal decision it has a lot of problems), is that the line is drawn too far into the development of the fetus. For most Americans, abortion during the second trimester is extremely bothersome. That is even more so now as sonograms have gotten better and more prevalent. The line needs to be drawn earlier.

    FYI, as I recall, about 90% of abortions are during the first trimester, about 10% the second, and less than 1% in the third. So we’re not talking about anywhere close to the majority of abortions. But, unfortunately, the democratic process has never been allowed to operate to reach a consensus on where the line should be drawn.

  16. Regarding Medicare for All or Universal Healthcare or whatever: How will birth control and/or abortion not be limited by the Hyde Amendment, or something similar. As hard as it will be to pass healthcare, surely we know there will be another uproar over taxpayer dollars paying for something antithetical to one’s religion. (Although we are never able to opt out of paying for war, but that’s a different topic).

  17. Paul; try talking to someone other than Republicans and pro-life, which means pro-fetus, they want nothing to do with taking care of those unwanted babies. My 24 year old granddaughter died at 5 months pregnant; SHE knew that the pregnancy FURTHER ENDANGERED HER LIFE DUE TO A LIFE-THREATENING SEIZURE DISORDER. Five months later she would have been forced by Pence’s anti-abortion law and been just as dead and with a dead baby inside her. We will never know the statistics about those who could not get a needed abortion and died or those who got an illegal abortion and died or suffered infections which destroyed their ability to become pregnant later or those we have read on the news who murdered their babies or small children.

    It is not your right to decide and, in case you haven’t been paying attention, there are some women who are as uncaring as the men like Pence, uncaring about the women or the babies. Get out of our beds and leave the care of our uterus to us and our doctors.

  18. Thank you Dennis, Dan and JoAnne for your kind words and encouragement. Oh how I despise the way our country is heading. If you think about it, the term racism can even be applied to the mainlining superiority complex that older white conservative males think they should have even over women. The saying goes “all men are created equal” but there is nothing angrier than a
    “woman scorned” so fellas beware…..women have been held down, but with the anger and protesting going on now, it may become all encompassing, not just related to BLM. Women have always been better at multi-tasking, so just wait until there is a woman VP (come November) and that will eventually lead to a woman POTUS…….a woman will bring everyone up with her, not strive to keep others down!

  19. Paul Ogden,
    I think the “Pro-Life” is one of those nice sound bite political phrases that the opposite must be the horrifying “Pro-Death”. It is used as one of those hot button distraction phrases that, when discussing candidates, and you are getting to meaningful platform issues, you can cut off the debate and shout “What about this guy? They’re not Pro-Life”.

    As you have never heard a “Pro-Lifer” say they want to control women’s body, you will also never hear Trump say he is racist. If you policies and actions cause a certain result despite the fact you say you are against it, you really are just lying to yourself and have not taken an objective look at what you are saying or doing.

    Unfortunately, as the Pro-Life movement has been co-opted by politicians to induce fear and loathing in an opposition candidate, it has really morphed into a “Forced to Birth” movement.

    (sarcasm) OMG If you let them have abortions, you might have to teach them about sex, or even tell them about birth control”. (end sarcasm) It seems like the same people that are working the hardest to make abortions illegal, are also the same people that are working the hardest to eliminate the very things that would prevent abortions, like sex education, and universal access to contraceptives.

    So while there may be reasonable people in the “Pro-Life”, or as I prefer the“Force to Birth” movement, the reality is that people will choose to have abortions regardless of the legality. Abortions will only be obtainable for the elite, and once again, unfortunately, it will be the poor and underprivileged who are disproportionately impacted.

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