The Obamas’ Bedroom: No Bishops Allowed

See all our coverage of the Birth Control Mandate 2011 here

I am of the mind and practice that, no matter who you are, an individual’s sex life, their sexual orientation, their contraceptive practices, fertility goals, pregnancy terminations and so forth are off limits for public discussion as long as we are talking about legal activities between or by consenting adults involving no form of coercion.  It’s really not my (or your) business.

That is, unless you are a politician, lobbyist, media, religious or other public figure who uses other people’s sex lives to advance your own political or religious goals. And especially if you are among those figures listed above and you claim moral superiority over others for political gain. Then your own life is open to scrutiny and is a legitimate part of the conversation.

My sense of boundaries is sufficiently strong that I would never think to ask or talk about contraceptive use by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama because it is none of my business.

However, the White House has made plain the President is considering broadening an already broad exemption for religious groups on contraceptive coverage in health reform under pressure from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  This would result in the loss of coverage for millions of women.

This is unacceptable and we have published numerous articles articulating why all women should have access to contraception through their health insurance plans, on the grounds of economic, social, and health benefits as well as to protect the religious and moral liberty of the vast majority of the United States population.

But it also made me realize something. It seems not only plausible but nearly 100 percent certain that, barring any fertility problems (which again are not otherwise my business), the President and First Lady practice birth control, as evidenced by the length of their marriage and the fact that they now have–and appear to have stopped at–two children. Data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute show that the typical U.S. couple wants only two children. To achieve this goal, they must use contraception consistently for roughly three decades.

It is obviously the right of the Obamas to plan their family.  But let’s put this in context. The President and First Lady are, fundamentally, public servants and are receiving health care coverage courtesy of the American people. While I do not begrudge them this at all, it is pretty clear to me that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is not–technically speaking–in bed with President and Michelle Obama. In other words, the Obamas are not subject to the Bishops’ twisted arguments on “religious liberty” and “conscience” clauses, and the Bishops are not controlling the Obamas’ access to contraception. Their method is, I am sure, covered in effect by us.

And, I am also pretty sure this is the case with the rest of the White House staff. Insurance coverage for the White House staff and members of the Administration almost certainly now includes some coverage of birth control (the majority of plans do) and will include coverage of birth control without a co-pay, if not fully so now, then clearly when the mandate goes into effect. In fact, the President is fond of saying that Americans should have the same access to health care coverage as he and members of Congress do.

Which is exactly my point.

I think it is safe conjecture that the Obamas don’t want the Bishops in bed with them.

Neither, as the wealth of evidence shows, do the millions of Catholic and non-Catholic women and men who use contraception and would be adversely affected economically, in terms of health, and by more unintended pregnancies as the result of any politically-motivated capitulation to the Bishops on birth control coverage in insurance plans.

Let’s let the Bishops sleep by themselves and keep them out of everyone’s bedrooms, from the President and First Lady on down.

President Obama: Make sure that all women have the same access to birth control without a co-pay that you, your staff, members of Congress and others will enjoy.  Like you said, we all just want what you have.


These groups urge you to take action:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Feminist Majority Foundation

Emily’s List

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health


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  • waterjoe

    First, you claim that a person’s contraceptive practices and other activities related to an individual’s sex life should not be the business of any politician.  Then you argue that mandated contraception coverage is in the public’s interest. 

    Whether or not you agree with them, for many of the politicians, their interest in access to contraception is a public matter because it has public consequences.  They argue, for example, that it leads to all sorts of bad things.  Again, I don’t ask you to agree with them, but just acknowledge that their arguments are no different than your arguments in favor of mandated contraceptive coverage.


    Second, you claim that not implementing the proposed rule will result in millions of women losing contraceptive coverage.  Elsewhere, however, you note that most policies already cover contraception.  Even if they did not, how could women lose something that they don’t yet have?