Equal Pay and the Attacks on Contraception
Recently, many politicians, especially the be-penised sort, have started to push harder against women’s access to reproductive healthcare. I don’t think I have been alive long enough to remember a time – if there was such a time – when abortion access wasn’t fair game, or when calling women who choose not to continue a pregnancy “baby killers” wasn’t an embarrassing breech of decorum and civility.
But seeing people – men, usually – attacking my right to enjoy sex and prevent abortion at the same time is a new experience. It’s an inarguable, self-evident fact that the No. 1 cause of abortion is unplanned/unwanted pregnancy. So by working to create more unplanned/unwanted pregnancies, the Republicans and their Dudebros in the Catholic Church are apparently pro-abortion.
The only way to make sense of these facts is to realize that it was never about the babies; the important thing is making sure Eve suffers in subjection to her husband. That’s their goal.
So, given that, it’s time we reframe the whole discussion. I strongly agree with others, such as Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon who have suggested we need to take the current framing (that employers’ religious liberty allows them to police the medications of their employees) and revise it to attack a larger argument they’re tacitly making about the unimportance of women’s sexual lives. Here’s how Amanda describes it:
I realize talking about and defending female sexual pleasure is a hard thing to do. Our society still has a ton of shame around the topic. But that’s what this fight is about. It’s not even really about contraception, per se. That’s why the Republican candidates, when asked about contraception, actually answered the question as if John King had said, “Where do you fall on the subject of women having sex without your explicit permission first?” (I’m serious; their answers about “out of wedlock” births and the like make way more sense if you substitute the phrase “unauthorized sex” for “contraception”.) We can only win this if we have a clean fight about it. And that means tackling the question of sex directly, and not chewing around the edges or worse, building our defenses around women who could theoretically be celibate but still on the pill.
Yet, I don’t think it goes far enough. For me this isn’t an argument about birth control at all. This is an argument about whether women deserve equal pay for equal work.
When you get health benefits from you’re job, you’re getting them as compensation for the work you’re doing. They’re not gifts from your employer. They’re part of your pay. Instead of making $25/hour, you’re making $15 and your employer is paying your health insurance premium.
Only a fool would think they would stop at contraception. Misogyny just makes it easier to throw women under the bus first. Next in line are any sort of queer folk, or people with HIV, then perhaps followed by black people (e.g. “sickle-cell anemia is actually a manifestation of the curse of Ham”), etc. Where does it end?
Giving an employer the power to line-item veto any kind of healthcare that would help a person that employer finds icky is giving that employer the right to discriminate against members of protected classes. The fact that so few in Congress apparently realize this shows how critical it is to reframe the discussion as a labor-rights issue.
Given that health benefits are part of the pay you receive for work, allowing employers to restrict the healthcare benefits of female employees exclusively allows those employers to pay women less.
And that’s fucking outrageous.