Irrationality vs. Science: The IOM Recommendations


All our coverage on the IOM report and the HHS recommendations can be found here.

If you had any lingering hope that the Institute of Medicine could recommend including contraception in the list of preventive services that the HHS will require insurance companies to cover without a co-pay, I’m afraid I’ll have to dash those hopes. Media Matters has graciously put together a round-up of hysterical, sex-phobic right wing reactions to the news.  The theme of the reactions can be summed up as, “Dirty sluts don’t deserve nothing,” with a side dose of classism and hostility to the idea of universal health coverage for Americans.   

As I’ve noted before, as the battle over women’s rights becomes as much about contraception as abortion, anti-choicers are being forced to rely less on pretending to care about “life”, and instead are coming out with more straightforward arguments positing that women simply can’t have rights.  Jeffrey Kuhner of the Washington Times laid out the basic argument against eliminating co-pays for contraception.  It was, unsurprisingly, illogical when it wasn’t completely nonsensical.  But it was also comprehensive.  Every argument against the proposal was included, and every single one is a bad argument.   Let’s take them one at a time.

Argument #1: Free contraception will turn a sea of innocent virgins into the town pumps.

Kuhner:

Promoting widespread contraception is essential to forging a pagan society based on consequence-free sex.

Reality: Contraception use is already widespread.  In fact, it’s basically universal, with more than 99 percent of women who have ever had sexual intercourse having also used contraception at some point.  Free contraception will promote widespread use in the same way that making food free would entice people to try out that eating thing they’ve heard so much.  Women have already decided they want to use contraception.  Making it available without co-pays will simply make it easier for them to live up to their intentions more consistently.   

The argument that contraception turns Christian women into pagans must be understood in this light, as contraception use is functionally universal and yet no mass conversion to vague pagan religions have yet to be reported. 

Argument #2: Female pleasure is wrong.

Kuhner:

Contraception violates the natural moral order. It decouples sexual intercourse from its main purpose: procreation. It entrenches the hedonistic ethic that sex is about recreation and individual gratification.

Reality: Since 95 percent of Americans have sex before marriage and 99 percent of women use contraception, we can safely say this belief has been voted down by the American public.  Anyway, esoteric religious beliefs can’t really be the basis of public policy.  Jehovah’s Witnesses probably outnumber people who don’t use contraception at this point, and they oppose blood transfusions, but you don’t see them demanding that insurance companies drop coverage for blood transfusions. 

Argument #3: This recommendation violates religious consciences.

Kuhner:

Moreover, subsidizing free birth control violates the conscience rights of devout Christians, orthodox Jews and Muslims.

Reality: If the principle is “no single dollar of extremely small pockets of anti-contraception fanatics should go to contraception,” then that principle has already been violated. Insurance companies already cover contraception.  The recommendation just requires that they cover more of the costs of it.  I’m unclear how, say, .005 percent of your insurance premiums going to contraception is okay with your religion, but having .01 percent of your premiums going to contraception is an outrageous violation of your religious rights.

Argument #4: ABOOOOOOORRRRRTION!

Kuhner:

Abortion is liberalism’s genocide. Since Roe v. Wade, nearly 50 million babies have been killed – lives exterminated in the womb of their mothers. Abortion clinics are the Gulag Archipelago of the modern left – a vast system of death camps underpinning the liberal regime’s secular hedonism.

Reality: Setting aside the hysterical accusation that 1/3 of American women have engaged in “genocide” against their own people (even though most women having abortions are mothers, and almost all the rest will be one day), this argument still makes no sense.  If abortion troubles you, you should be the first in line to demand free contraception for all. The whole point of contraception is that it prevents pregnancy, and you can’t get an abortion if you’re not pregnant.  Opposing contraception because of abortion is like opposing exercise because you don’t like the high heart attack rate.  Or opposing stoplights because you’re worried about traffic accidents. 

No matter how much anti-choicers ratchet up the rhetoric about abortion, the ugly truth is this: by opposing contraception, anti-choicers reveal their true agenda.  And it has nothing to do with fetal life and everything to do with women and sex.

Kuhner is no lone wolf in his hysteria over this recommendation.  As demonstrated at Media Matters, Bill O’Reilly has come out against this, using the “drunk sluts” excuse.  Greg Gutfeld on Fox News came out against this on the grounds that poor people especially should be forced to bear unwanted children, though he pretended his belief that only the well-off should have contraception was somehow supportive of poor people.  Sandy Rios of Fox News argued that contraception encourages sluttiness.  (Once again, since almost all sexually active women use contraception, the definition of a slut in this line of thinking encompasses basically all non-virgin women, married or single.) Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council objected to the IOM recommendation, using the “religious conscience” excuse, even though these supposed objectors are already paying insurance premiums that cover contraception, meaning that it’s not a principle that’s being changed but simply a percentage of cost. 

There’s a good and bad side to this.  All this conservative outcry is good in a sense, because anti-choicers are revealing an anti-woman, anti-sex agenda they’ve tried in the past to conceal because it’s so unpopular.  But the bad news is that this level of pressure could be felt at the HHS, and cause them to cowardly give into the “dirty sluts” argument and refuse women their right to have contraception covered as preventive care.  Hopefully the HHS will ignore the misogyny choir and do the right thing.   

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  • princess-jourdan

    It has always been my hope that when the true agenda of the extreme right-wing pro-lifers became clear (and I knew it eventually would show its true face), it would be the final blow to the Far Right pro-life movement and cause them to hang themselves with their own rope.  When virtually ALL of the American public uses contraception and enjoys sex for reasons other than marital procreation, there is NO WAY the American public will allow such fanatical, irrational policy to rule over their personal lives.  When you start dictating the private sex lives of total strangers, you have crossed some serious boundaries.  Get ready to say goodbye to the Religious Right, because as soon as their true intentions become clear to the rest of the American public, they will be GONE.  This will be the end of them.

  • jennifer-starr

    I really, really want this to be true.  However, looking over the past 30-40+ years of the ‘Religious’ Right, from Jerry Falwell and his ‘Moral Majority’ and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum up to the present day, these people have portrayed their true hateful faces time and time again, and unfortunately they’re still with us today. I’d like them to be gone, but I’m not terribly optimistic. 

  • pumpkinpjays

    Ah, Princess…I wish I could be so hopeful about the future of humanity.  I’d love to think that America will be rid of the scorge that is the religious right, but there will always be extremists.  It’s the same intellectual functioning that drives people into cults.

     

    And yet…we can expect that most people will choose to shy away from such irrational statements.  Just as they are smart enough not to put all of their faith into cults, fortunately the majority of Americans are better raised and educated than to buy into Mr Kuhner’s dribble. 

     

    I’ve been promoting a Common Sense Party for years now.  Unrestricted access to contraception is integral to that philosophy.  Contraception saves lives, helps protect our environment from the negative effects of human overpopulation, and enables individuals, families, and societies to better care for themselves. 

    Promoting contraception is common sense! 

  • concerned-feminist

    I guess Mormons should protest alcoholism & drug addiction & smoking treatment as well, since thier religion forbids tobacco, drugs & alcohol. Really, this shit is pathetic. If contraception is immoral, then we should stop covering ED treatment as well, since men having more sex is what creates this problem. Idiots can’t have it both ways!

  • dannyhaszard

    Jehovah’s Witnesses (I was born to a JW clan) are not against contraception last I checked.

    The Watchtower Jehovah’s Witnesses cult has got a deadly twisted ban on what they call ‘whole’ blood transfusions.It’s a killer dogma because it is wraped around  a legal subterfuge of the parent organization of the Watchtower society not getting sued for wrongful deaths.

    More at my page http://www.dannyhaszard.com I was in the cult now Im out-Danny Haszard

  • concerned-feminist

    Would you agree that at no point in the Bible does “God” say ANYTHING regarding birth control? The only one making these “moral” claims is the Church. The Church is NOT God.

  • beenthere72

    It saddens me to see so many people agreeing with him.   And I feel sorry for his wife, if he’s got one.  

  • wendy-banks

    One can only hope, Princess Jordan

     

  • ahunt
  • gordon

    You at least have to give this Kuhner guy credit for a little intellectual honesty, even if he is completely decoupled from the real world.  The rabid wing of the anti-choice camp (if that isn’t redundant) used to insist all they cared about was saving fetuses.  Of course we knew they were lying all along, but now they’re starting to admit it.  I hope you’re right, Princess Jourdan.