2012 U.S. birth control controversy

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The 2012 U.S. birth control controversy is an ongoing outburst of public discussion about the politics of contraception and the rights of women to control their own bodies.

Starting in February, conservative politicians and opinion makers in the United States tried to undo much of the sexual revolution, with contraception as their main target. Birth control became a hot-button issue when President Obama made a provision in the Affordable Health Care Act requiring insurance companies to provide women with annual exams, and prescription birth control without a co-pay. Some Republicans and their friends in the media went nuts, and an increasingly stupid and hateful debate over something that has been taken for granted for nearly 60 years grabbed a nation's attention.

Affordable Health Care Act's provision[edit]

The 2012 addition to the Affordable Health Care Act regarding women's health care mandated that any insurance plan would provide women with a free annual exam and any and all forms of prescription birth control. It is unclear if this covered IUDs, but it explicitly covered the Pill, hormone injections, "the patch", and implants. The new guidelines stated that according to best practices, a woman is better able to control her path in life, and provide for herself if she is able to choose when the time is right for her to have a child. Unwanted pregnancies, it went on to state, were one of the single biggest problems society has to face, and preventing them is the single best option.

Many states already have (or had, as those laws are changing in the face of this so-called "controversy") laws that require that if an insurance is carrying any medication coverage, it must offer prescription birth control under the exact same terms. The Federal law would remove any co-pay or deductible from this one medication.

Religious freedom[edit]

The Republican response to this rather banal addition to AHC was to claim that it violated freedom of religion because employers would be mandated to provide something they had moral objections to. While the movement to challenge this provision of AHC was initiated by Catholics, many politicians jumped on the bandwagon, arguing that "free" birth control was a slippery slope to other mandated entitlements. The White House quickly pointed out that churches were exempt from the provision from the beginning. But the big issue was Church-run social organizations, such as schools, hospitals and charities, many of which had very large staffs. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was determined to see funding for birth control stricken from the AHC. [1]

Where are the women?[edit]

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee decided to have a "hearing" on the issue of AHC mandating birth control coverage. To discuss a topic critical to women's health, they invited a panel of 5 guests to explain why it is critical that birth control coverage not be mandated. On the panel were five religious individuals -- all conservative, all against birth control, and as Facebook readers and tweeters would soon show the world, all men. (A later panel would have 2 women, both against birth control as a matter of principle, and both very much against forcing religions to 'provide' it, even indirectly.)

The Committee promised the Democrats one witness only. The Democrats chose a young law student from Georgetown University, Sandra Fluke. Ms. Fluke was the president of a student organization to get the school to pay for comprehensive women's care, specifically birth control as part of their standard coverage they provide all students. Because it is a religious institution, Georgetown does not cover birth control except for clear medical need and only when there are not other alternatives. Ms. Fluke was to testify about how hard it was to get birth control covered, even when the reason was medically legitimate, because of a "trend" or "fear" that the medication was used primary to allow the girls to have sex. Her stories were to include one story about a victim of rape, who didn't get medical treatment, thinking none of the treatment would be covered, since that woman had heard "they don't cover birth control". Another woman lost an ovary because the school denied that she "really needed" the pill to help with her ovarian cysts. Ms. Fluke was to testify that there were hundreds of girls from that school alone who had issues getting medically necessary birth control pills.

The Committee denied her right to testify, claiming she had no "experience" or "expertise" in the matter (of women's birth control). Hearing that, several female Democrats walked out of the Kangaroo Court. Ms. Fluke's testimony was later allowed outside of the actual hearing, but it was not televised. Congresswoman Pelosi arranged for it to be broadcast at a later date, leading to more drama with Rush Limbaugh.

A Blunt amendment is an amendment that is very short and without point.


  1. As of March 14, 2012, the Conference officially shifted its position to one of religious liberty, to draw attention away from a long history of politicking against abortion and birth control