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Opinion: Contraception and women’s rights -- it’s still a man’s world

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When it comes to contraception, it’s still a man’s world.

President Obama offered a compromise Friday on health insurance coverage for contraceptives. (For a thoughtful take on how that’s likely to work, read my colleague Jon Healey’s post, ‘The White House wishes away the cost of contraception coverage.’)

Really, though, this issue isn’t about health insurance, or healthcare costs, or even religious freedom and the 1st Amendment. This is about power.

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It’s about men telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.

And that’s ridiculous.

The Roman Catholic Church is dominated by men. So, for that matter, is Islam. And so are a number of Christian churches -- the Mormon Church, for example.

Which is why we find ourselves, in the 21st century, with these faiths -- and the men who run them -- dictating to women on that most vital issue: the health of their own bodies.

It’s a very old story: Men have power over women, and they certainly don’t seem to want to give it up.

No, no, it’s about religious freedom, you say. That’s what the Catholic bishops argue, anyway. You could ask their female peers in the church what they think, but -- oh, that’s right, they don’t have any female peers!

Huh.

No. This is about women’s freedom -– the freedom too many women don’t have.

If a woman chooses not to use birth control, or chooses not to have an abortion, that’s freedom.

If a man, whether a religious leader or a pandering politician, tells her what she’s able to do, that’s, well, it’s certainly not freedom.

These same religious leaders and politicians often talk about respecting women.

Respecting women isn’t telling them what to do ‘for their own good.’ And hiding behind religion to deny contraceptive coverage is simply another way to perpetuate that abusive, illogical and antiquated notion.

Want to respect women?

Then make sure they have the freedom to decide for themselves.

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-- Paul Whitefield


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