Monday, July 28, 2014

From legislative man caves to the Viagra Court

   When the ovum is ready, even if the woman isn't, sperm introduced into the picture will come from every direction.

  That's the picture for women on the public policy front right now. They're getting it from every direction.

  They've gotten it from five males on the Supreme Court who see birth control to be less the stuff of health-care mandates and more like, oh, eyeliner and blush.

  They've gotten it from assorted Bible clubs – aka red-state legislatures – happy to ignore health concerns as they carve away at reproductive rights.

  Now they have manly budget hawks in the U.S. House targeting the notoriously ill-gotten gain that is aid to single mothers.

  Where to start? How about at the sex act?

  It takes two. But when it comes to unintended consequences of the act, one sex skips out and makes like it – he – had no role in the matter. Whatever emanates becomes the woman's burden.

  That's why we have TANF – Temporary Assistance to Needy Families: help for a woman with child when one half of the pairing that produced the child is a zero.

  Chief budget hawk in the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, has proposed putting programs like TANF and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) into a budgetary blender and piping them to states as one big block grant. This is nothing more than a quest to strangle off social programs that have always rankled the right.

  We are led to believe that such assistance is a reward for inactivity. In fact, the vast majority of SNAP recipients work outside of the home, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Yes, they are the working poor. And they are women.

  Let's shift to women's bodily rights. For many years as an opinion editor, I grilled statehouse candidates about their opinions on abortion. Generally they recoiled and glossed over the matter with a dismissive, "Well, that's not going to be an issue this session."

  That session has come. Twelve states now have enacted abortion bans beyond 20 weeks with almost no consideration to the health ramifications women face. And only one of the 12, Nebraska, provides an exception in the case of rape.

  More insidious has been legislation that has dramatically reduced the number of abortion providers based on pointless criteria like proximity to an admitting hospital. This is portrayed – wink, wink – as being based on concerns for women's health. All it means is a dramatic drop in safe and accessible options.

  For shame. Abortion is constitutionally protected. Denying access so dramatically means two things: (1) Those of means will travel whatever distance they need to have it done safely; (2) Those without means will travel shorter distances and have it done less safely.

  Those who seek to ban abortion pine for a bygone time when "hospital admitting" was in the emergency room after women self-induced.

  The discussion now takes us back to the Supreme Court and its unfortunate ruling granting religious exemptions from the contraception mandates under the Affordable Care Act.

  Leave it to a woman, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to point out the folly in a ruling penned by five men in black.

  Could the religious exemption by which Bible-citing employers can cherry-pick on what is covered, she asked, extend to "blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and    vaccinations?"

  One of a myriad of good reasons for the ACA was the fact that though many health plans didn't cover contraceptives, they did cover Viagra and Cialis. What about that, guys? If I were an employer, I'd resist. I've seen the TV commercials. Stuff's an ER trip waiting to happen.

   Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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