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Feb 26

Birth control and weak arguments

Some arguments are weak, not because they don’t argue the point well, but because they miss the big picture.

I noticed this the first time I posted Fluke’s video here, and it appears I am not the only one. Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon addresses those kinds of arguments that miss the point altogether.

The most common form this concession takes is well-meaning, and often person conceding the argument that women who have sex for pleasure are somehow less-than don’t intend to concede it. But that’s nonetheless what they’re doing. That concession looks like this:

“Some women aren’t even taking the birth control pill for contraception! They need it for cramps/endometriosis/etc.”

Every time you say this, a right winger wanting to imply that women who have sex for pleasure are sluts gets his wings.

First I just want to say: This.

Fluke’s argument fails because the concessions she makes manage to marginalize almost the entire population she wanted to defend. We all know what they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

Like Marcotte, I absolutely understand why Fluke chose her argument. She  wanted an argument she could win. She can’t win the panel over in one fell swoop saying “sex is good clean fun.” Fluke chooses the concession for what she considers the greater good. Marcotte makes it very clear why it is not the greater good though.

I want to show how I think the argument should have been presented. Keep in mind that I am not a legal scholar. The arguments I make here, I expect someone well versed in legal presidents to make a thousand times better. Nonetheless, here we go.

The idea is a simple one. Personal rights always trump the right of an organization no matter the strength of conviction that organization (religion) holds. The first amendment states*:

 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In its broadest sense, that amendment protects “the church.” It protects the right of the religious wing-nuts to declare piously that us sluts are doin’ it wrong. However in its most narrow sense, its most specific sense, and its most important sense that amendment protects the individual from abiding by the pious decelerations of any religious dogma.

It is this protection of our most basic right that prevents religious organizations from forcing employees to tithe or allowing them to maintain 24 hour surveillance on those same employees.  The rights of those employees  to act immorally, to choose where to spend their money are of greater significance than those of the church. Imagine if, suddenly, the catholic church deemed it against god’s will to seek the help of a doctor for medical concerns. Imagine if they attempted to use the same logic presented in the first all-male-joke-of-a-panel. “We the members of the clergy find it a grievous violation against our rights to be forced to provide insurance benefits to our employees as our Gawd decreed that all forms of healing go through approved, ordained clergy members.”  Hell, imagine if they only attempted to require that employees try faith healing first but then after that failed (and it certainly would) then the employee could go to doctors. How well would that logic go over in congress?

The church is required by law to maintain a certain degree of secular relationship with the people it employs. There is a long history of this. A person’s right to choose to postpone reproduction through prescription contraception, especially when the employees pay for the insurance, is just a necessary and reasonable extension of this. They have no argument save that “sexy is icky and we should be able to dictate that sex is only used to procreate,” and that argument fails when you realize the church cannot force their employees not to prevent pregnancy any more than they can force their employees to procreate.

The decision to use contraceptives is a deeply personal choice no matter the reason a person uses them. Religious institutions attempting to prevent access to contraceptives through lack of insurance coverage does nothing but put an undo burden on females to prove their morality to doctors or pay out of pocket to protect their own reproductive health.  Equal protection may just as well be thrown out the window along with the first amendment.

This is the direction I think Fluke could have gone and maintained a winnable argument without throwing us sluts under the bus.  Let me know where you think the flaws are in my reasoning and I will try to address those.

*That is just in case you forgot the most fundamentally important part of the constitution.

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    | IdioPrag

    [...] And we will try to shine the most “positive” light possible upon them. Consider the Sandra Fluke incident. I spoke once how she laid bare her own versions of martyrs for women’s rights to [...]

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