Recently the Washington County Observer asked that I write about all the furor surrounding the politics of contraception. Here's what I wrote:
On a scale of 0 to 10, the political relevance of recent discussions of contraception is about minus 3.
It's not an issue, but rather is a link to other issues of varied importance.
Some history: at one time access to means of contraception was illegal in the United States. Eventually such laws went away; as a result, contraception is no longer a political issue. But a major religious organization, the Roman Catholic Church, has opposed all means of contraception. Despite the reported practice of contraception by the majority of American -- and probably the developed world's -- Catholics, the church's official doctrinal position is that such behavior is wrong.
That is the church's belief. Whether or not you or I agree with it or whether or not the Catholic laity adheres to it, such belief remains a sincerely held religious conviction protected under the First Amendment.
Comes now the Obama administration to say: "Too bad about your beliefs on contraception, Church, but our secular beliefs on contraception (and about abortion) trump your beliefs. Therefore you WILL pay for the contraception and abortions of your employees, understood?" This coming from guys who oppose the traditional role of religion in a pluralistic society.
That's the most important link regarding contraception to a larger issue: the issue of conscience and religious freedom. And that is a mega-issue with far-reaching consequences. The Bible and American tradition recognize the sanctity of conscience and Barack Obama is trampling it. The President in effect has elevated himself to the office of pope. And his administration threatens all religious beliefs whether Baptist church polity, Amish separatism, Jewish dietary observance, Muslim prayer practices and on and on and on. As Mike Huckabee has said: "We are all Catholics now."
Then there is a lesser issue, the attempt to resurrect the long-abandoned relevance of the legality of contraception and to try to hang it on the presidential campaign of Rick Santorum. Here’s the logic, such as it is: the Catholic Church resists Obama's directives on contraception. Rick Santorum is a devout Catholic. Rick Santorum doesn't believe in contraception. Therefore, Rick Santorum, wants to outlaw contraception!
Mr. Santorum, unlike his critics, understands the earlier-mentioned role of religion in a pluralistic society. Nobody with the beliefs attributed to him could have politically made it this far, including serving in the United States Senate.
Finally, there is one more attempt to link contraception to contemporary politics: part of it silly, part of it important. The silly part is the recent testimony of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that another law student, who is married, cannot afford contraception.
Law students at a highly-rated school unable to buy condoms -- about $1.75 each at Wal-Mart – cheaper online.
But there is an important dimension of Ms. Fluke's testimony: just one more attempt to have fun while someone else pays.
Those are not the politics of contraception. Those are the politics of national financial ruin.