Metro Weekly

Hanky Panky

Republican efforts to block birth control because of ''moral'' objections have some severe implications for LGBT people as well

Although most of us shoehorn ourselves into one of the two political parties, at least for purposes of voting, the fit is rarely perfect as we can all hold opinions on specific issues that may be at odds with our overall left v. right positioning. It’s why we have ”liberal-tarians,” for example. Or the much-ballyhooed ”fiscally conservative and socially liberal” voters, and their opposites who love government programs but aren’t so hot on gay marriage. And let’s not forget the Blue Dog Democrats and Northeastern Republicans.

It can be difficult to keep track, to the point where resurrecting the old gay hanky code for political purposes could come in handy, especially during the current Republican primary season. For Newt Gingrich, a black hanky right would mean, ”I hate Mitt Romney”; black hanky left would mean, ”I still hate Mitt Romney.” Romney himself would be a gray hanky left and right, to keep his options open. Rick Santorum would… oh, hell, that’s just too easy.

I admit, this is all silly talk. But we are in the middle of a supremely silly season. After three years of Glenn Beck rallies, tea party insurgencies and right-wing radio rants about the importance of liberty and freedom from a burgeoning government takeover of the minutest details of our lives, we get to the core message of Republican ”freedom”: keeping women from getting birth control.

I would be flabbergasted at the misapplication of the principle of religious liberty cited by Republicans who want to grant any business owner the right to block health insurance plans from providing birth control because of their own ”religious and moral beliefs” if Washington political theater hadn’t long ago stripped me of flabbergastibility. (I am, for the record, still capable of being gobsmacked.)

Lots of people are claiming to be surprised that the culture war has re-opened over birth control – to borrow a phrase, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of American women won’t give up their birth control pills until you pry them from their cold, dead hands – but it’s really just the latest skirmish in the effort to give special rights to certain religious faiths. Whether it’s allowing anti-abortion pharmacists the right to deny service to women seeking ”morning after” pills or anti-gay doctors to turn away lesbian couples seeking fertility services, it all comes down to destroying the network of shared trust we have in our health care system – not our health insurance, but our entire health care system.

Right now the war is on women, and it’s not just birth control. Virginia just took things even further, as Republicans passed a bill that requires the forcible invasion of the vaginas of women seeking an abortion for a ”transvaginal ultrasound” in order to shame and discourage them. But this is the kind of thing that wouldn’t end with birth control and abortion. It is no stretch to predict that some employers, citing their moral opposition to homosexuality, would see the proposed Republican conscience-clause as an opportunity to deny health insurance coverage to gay employees for, say, hepatitis and HPV vaccines.

Our doctors, nurses, hospitals and pharmacies are supposed to provide needed health care services for all Americans, not platforms for proselytizing and politicizing. We shouldn’t need an elaborate code system to determine when and whether we can get the care we need.

Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @seanbugg.

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