A crack research team at ThinkProgress has uncovered the Republicans’ latest nefarious scheme: “The GOP’s plot to convince you they support birth control.”
At issue is a bill Senate Republicans will introduce in response to a Democratic proposal that would overturn the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision.
“We plan to introduce legislation this week that says no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “There’s no disagreement on that fundamental point.”
Indeed, the GOP’s plot to convince people they support birth control has even fooled Republicans. According to a 2012 Gallup poll, 87 percent of Republicans believe the use of birth control is “morally acceptable.” The percentage of Republicans who think it should be legal is certainly higher.
This compares to 90 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of independents who believe birth control is okay. Given the poll’s margin of error, however, it’s possible there is no difference at all.
There are statistically significant differences of opinion between the two major parties on abortion, the death penalty, even wearing fur coats. But there isn’t on birth control.
So if Republican leaders say they want birth control to be legal and rank-and-file Republicans say they have no moral qualms about its use, why does there need to be a plot to convince people to believe what is clearly true? Republicans support birth control.
Legal birth control isn’t good enough, counter our friends at ThinkProgress. “But legality isn’t exactly the same as accessibility,” writes Tara Culp-Ressler. “And the Hobby Lobby case was about the latter.”
Well, one might quibble that the Hobby Lobby case was about whether the only effective way to make birth control more accessible is to force third parties with religious objections to pay for it.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act — signed into law by the notoriously prudish and anti-sex reactionary President Bill Clinton — doesn’t say that religious commitments trump all other considerations. But it does stipulate religious conscience can only be overridden to serve a compelling public interest when no other less coercive means are available.
Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see this level of honesty in the contraceptive mandate debate. There has been a lot of loose talk about Republicans wanting to ban birth control. Where Alan Keyes could once run for office without being quizzed about whether he would make contraception illegal, Mitt Romney and Ken Cuccinelli can’t.
“Successful efforts to limit access to women’s health care services don’t typically result from outright bans,” writes Culp-Ressler. Instead they result from nuns refusing to pay for intrauterine devices. “In that context, it doesn’t matter that IUDs aren’t technically illegal,” she continues. “If women don’t have the insurance benefits to make them affordable, they’re still just as far out of reach.”
IUDs are a particularly expensive form of birth control. Because they can theoretically act as abortifacients, they are also particularly controversial. Relatively few people have ever called for banning them, however. Twenty years ago, John G. Schmitz campaigned against IUDs in a Republican primary against Bob Dornan.
Dornan, who opposed a ban, won the primary. Schmitz would go on to be kicked out of the John Birch Society for being too extreme.
You can find the occasional Republican, like this misguided Ohio lawmaker, whose efforts would make it harder to cover birth control. There are many more Republicans like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner who want to make birth control cheaper and more accessible by allowing oral contraceptives to be sold over the counter.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — which wasn’t wild about the Hobby Lobby ruling — has endorsed the idea. It is a good way to use markets to make a product more affordable for women who want it without implicating men and women who don’t.
Another possibility is separating health insurance from employment, a rare point of agreement between Obamacare supporters and proponents of various free-market reform plans. This would allow women to buy health insurance plans that cover the services they want, regardless of whether they work for Hobby Lobby.
Taken together, free-market health care reform and over-the-counter access to the pill would mean women could get birth control without a permission slip from their government, doctor or employer.
But to some people, such common-sense solutions are neither as politically advantageous nor emotionally satisfying as pretending Republicans are going to bring America back to the theocratic dark ages of contraceptive access that prevailed during Barack Obama’s first term.
Up next: the GOP’s plot to convince you water is wet and the sky is blue.
W. James Antle III is the editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation and author of the book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.