Taking Control: What’s Behind the Conservative Attack on Women?

120319_talkcmmntillus_p233Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker:

It would be hard to imagine a more unlikely historical moment than this one for birth control to become a matter of outraged political controversy. For starters, there is the statistic that ninety-nine per cent of all American women who have had sex have used contraception at some point in their lives. For Catholic women, the percentage is almost the same—ninety-eight per cent, according to an analysis released last spring by the Guttmacher Institute. Then, there’s the fact that we live in a society that has become remarkably dependent on the unfettered ambition of women. As the Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy writes in a new book, “The Richer Sex,” forty per cent of working wives now earn more than their husbands, and, by 2030, that number will probably rise to fifty per cent. Women already make up more than half of college and university students. By 2019, if current trends continue, they will make up fifty-nine per cent of total undergraduate enrollment, and sixty-one per cent of those enrolled in graduate programs. This is an economic and educational order predicated on the freedom of women, married and unmarried, to protect their own health and to decide when they’re going to have children.

As long as the debate stirred up by the Blunt Amendment—which would have allowed employers to refuse coverage for health services they felt compromised their religious beliefs—stayed focussed on freedom of religion, it was possible to forget that putting birth control back in political play meant ignoring reality. You could, after all, make a coherent argument about Catholic employers and the calls of conscience, without insisting on the moral turpitude of people who use birth control or talk about it in public. You could also argue that the Catholic hierarchy was basically asking the federal government to do what its own teachings apparently could not: to remind Catholic women of the evils of contraceptives in such a way that they would actually stop using them. But at least we were still in the realm of a legitimate policy debate.

Then Rush Limbaugh opened his mouth and showed us more than we wanted to know about the dank interior of his mind.