COMMENTARY | As if the Republican Party did not have enough trouble combating the image that it is a political entity of, by, and for authoritarian old white men, the recently opened front on contraception in the culture wars provided yet another instance that this still is more the rule than the exception.
In a quick reactionary move by the GOP to capitalize on the flap over a health care provision that did not exempt health care facilities ran by religious organizations, Republicans convened a special hearing Thursday that openly questioned whether or not President Barack Obama's plan infringed on religious rights. But in their haste, Republicans forgot to invite to appear and provide testimony (for the most part) what many might consider the most crucial demographic involved in the argument -- women.
Sure, the emergence of effective male contraceptives in the past decade or so has given males a little more control in the area of contraception, but not so much that females, the traditional burden carrier of contraceptive methods (not to mention the traditional carrier of the children that result from poor methodologies or non-use), could or should have been excluded from the hearing.
And yet, it would appear that half of the equation regarding the non-contraception position -- the female half -- was not in attendance at a hearing about issues of faith, religious freedom, contraception issues, and whether or not proposed legislation infringed on the personal rights of those affected -- namely people of faith that would be beneficiaries of government-related health care inside medical facilities or programs operated by religious organizations. According to a CNN report, no women were invited to testify or help inform the gathering during the first panel of the congressional hearing. Only two gave testimony during the second panel.
In fact, the hearing, entitled: "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?" might better have been entitled: "Phony Outrage: Men Paying Homage To Traditional Patriarchal Religious and Government Systems And Decrying Poorly Worded Legislation That Would Never Become Law (With Token Guest Appearances By A Couple Of Traditional Conceivers, i.e. Females)."
The Obama administration had reworded the legislation once it began having an adverse resonance, especially among the Catholic community (which operates a sizable number of health care institutions throughout the U. S.). But even given a religious exemption from the health care provider plan, that institutions of faith that operate within the domain of the contraception legislation (the administering of free contraception being the crux of the argument, given that the official Catholic stance is primarily against the use of contraceptive methods of birth control) do not have to be involved, Republicans still felt it necessary to air their objections in a formal congressional hearing.
Well, at least men were...
And since when has the GOP embraced the position of a separation of church and state, as the hearing's title suggests? Apparently, as in this instance, when they believe it can be used to their political advantage.
Be that as it may, while Republicans pontificate on the matters of conception and contraception, they might want to include women in their deliberations. They have been a traditional part of the process, even during all those years when they weren't allowed a vote or even a word regarding said process -- politically, legally, or religiously. They make up at least half of the voting electorate. And they are -- and have been since the genesis of the species -- involved in matters that involve sex and conception. Women are also becoming increasingly involved in matters of religion and laws and government. So even if the GOP is still primarily rooted in God-bestowed patriarchal authoritarianism, it would still be within their best interests to at least pay lip service to females' rights to take part in the political dialogue about issues that directly impact the gender.
Besides, it did not seem all that difficult for them to pay lip service to actually caring about a separation of church and state when they wanted to call a hearing...
- President Barack Obama