Tomorrow, the Senate is set to vote on the atrocious Blunt Amendment, proposed by Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. If passed into law, this amendment will reverse President Obama’s positive steps toward providing near-universal birth control access, as it will allow any employer to deny birth control coverage based on his or her personal moral objections. But further, and even more threatening, the Blunt Amendment will empower employers to deny their employees coverage for any medical procedure they choose: abortion, in vitro fertilization, and organ transplants, just to name a few. The degree to which this amendment would allow employers to hinder the healthcare rights of their employees is immeasurable and unquestionably horrifying.
We’ve become so accustomed to hearing buzzwords about “morality” in the context of women’s health discussions, but it’s critical that we step back and ask ourselves these questions: what moral is at stake here? What are we really even debating? As articulated by Martha Plimpton, an actress and guest blogger for Slate, “It’s long past time we started focusing on the solutions that actually keep women healthy, instead of using basic aspects of women’s health as a tool of cultural, moral, and political control.”
Historically, the ideas that a man has a right to reign over his wife’s body, that birth control destroys women’s sexual propriety, and that females are intellectually inferior have drawn legitimacy from the antiquated social contexts in which they existed. But today, in the 21st century, implying that women are intellectually inferior by questioning their rights to make their own reproductive decisions is horrendously offensive. Claiming that a female, given birth control, is unable to restrain her sexual behavior is grossly outdated. The moral questions that used to give clout to the notion of women’s health as a “moral issue” no longer bear weight. The facts are that family planning saves lives and improves the quality of our societies and that the medical procedures women choose are scientifically sound and effective.
When we consider what “women’s health” should mean, it should encompass the pursuit of all possible ways to ensure that women can maximize their health status. It’s a question of safety, of security, and of livelihood—morality, and the judgments of what that means to one person versus another—should not be part of the picture.