Originally posted at The Anthropology Student
This Valentine’s Day, we’re going to talk about women’s rights and why this man’s argument is wrong. Lee Doren, who vlogs at the YouTube channel HowTheWorldWorks, makes an admirable attempt to remove the issue of religion from the current debates surrounding Obama’s contraception mandate for all healthcare plans. I encourage you to watch the video above and get a sense of his argument before reading further.
Now, Doren’s main argument revolves around this. “There is not a person in America, living anywhere in America… who a) has a job, b) has health insurance, and c) has no access to contraception. That person does not actually exist.” Doren’s assertion is based on the fact that everyone in America has access to condoms, and that condoms are the most effective form of preventing both pregnancy and STD/STIs.
Condoms, while they are one of the most effective forms of contraception, are male contraception. In order for a woman or a gay man to benefit from the usage of condoms, he or she has to have a sexual partner that actually uses them. Even if you are sex positive, educated person who carries condoms on your person at all times, there is no guarantee that your partner will agree to use them or use them properly. Many people are allergic to latex and cannot use condoms. Many people are simply in monogamous sexual relationships where pregnancy prevention, not STD prevention, is the main concern. Essentially, Doren’s argument for condoms as a substitute for government mandated contraceptive coverage privileges men and harms women. The beauty of the birth control pill and other forms of contraception for female bodies is that it puts pregnancy prevention in the hands of women and allows them to control their own bodies rather than relying on a partner to do so.
Doren also ignores the fact that many women use birth control pills for health rather than reproductive reasons. This includes menstrual regulation and the treatment of ovarian cysts. These women who are on healthcare plans that do not cover birth control costs on religious grounds are disadvantaged by having to pay out of their own pockets for a medically necessary drug.
Doren buttresses his argument with the fact that you can buy condoms off Amazon for every day of the year for less than $100. Wow, that’s awesome. Wouldn’t it be nice if female contraception was that cheap? Let’s take a look at some statistics for the price of birth control methods– only two forms of female birth control (besides abstinence and fertility awareness, which are free), are cheaper than condoms for a year. The most common forms of birth control for women exceed the price of condoms for a year, meaning that women, especially low-income women, are at a disadvantage. They will be less likely to be able to pay for a form of birth control that they are in control of, and more likely to have unplanned pregnancies as a result. Take a look below at the cost of varying forms of female birth control over a five year period:
Doren claims, “You literally have…entire aisles of contraception that are available to just about anyone.” I’m sure many women can tell you that if you are simply walking into a drug store looking for contraception, the only alternative to condoms that is available over the counter to women is spermicides. Many women and men are allergic to the chemicals in spermicides. They are also one of the least effective methods of birth control– when used alone, they are only about 85% effective.
Doren’s argument is patriarchal and it is detrimental to the state of women in our society. It assumes that all men will be compliant to the usage of condoms at all times. It assumes that there aren’t abusive sexual partners who won’t care what their partner says about contraception.
Why are there more men engaging in this debate in the media than women? To put religion back into the issue, Catholic bishops have been the most outspoken opponents to Obama’s birth control mandate. Women cannot be Catholic bishops. According to the CDC, 98% of Catholic women admit to using birth control. There is a gendered distance in this debate. Why are we not hearing from women? Why are we allowing men (of whom most, just to remind you, cannot get pregnant), discuss this issue for us?