Men shouldn’t rule women’s bodies

To a male-dominated room of Michigan legislators, Rep. Lisa Brown had only one sentence to conclude her criticism on a proposed anti-choice abortion legislation: “And finally Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”

During a lecture by Illinois Planned Parenthood Vice President Pam Sutherland, the words certainly stirred laughter in the room, but nonetheless rung true. Sutherland was referencing Brown as part of a discussion on H.R.1 (the first session of the House 2011), a continuing resolution focused on making cuts to reduce the federal deficit. One of the amendments aimed to eliminate all financing for Planned Parenthood.

But really, how can anyone take a bunch of middle-aged, nearly-balding men voting on women’s birth control seriously? And I’m not the only one wondering why men introduce this kind of legislation in the first place. Georgetown Law school graduate and women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke was irritated by her friend’s story describing their university insurance’s denial of contraceptive hormones to treat an ovarian cyst.

It should have been simple: Prescribe the contraceptive hormones covered by Georgetown insurance to treat the cyst and be done with it. However, Georgetown is a Jesuit university, which usually do not provide contraceptive coverage benefits to students — unless the intentions are not for contraceptive purposes. In this case, they aren’t, but the University suspected ulterior motives and continued to deny her.

When the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (specifically committee chairman Darrell Issa (R) of California) denied Fluke the chance to speak at a hearing regarding religious institutions and exemptions in health care, her story gained national attention. Even radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh had some controversial words to say about Fluke’s support for contraceptives: “She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

There seems to be a reoccurring theme here: men as the “experts” on women’s reproductive health.

Thing is, not every woman who seeks contraception is doing so for contraceptive purposes. Birth control has been proven to mitigate menstrual pain and even regulate menstrual cycles. Fluke’s friend wasn’t seeking contraceptives to prevent getting pregnant, rather was seeking them as a life-saving treatment.

The scheme that any woman who uses contraceptives is a “slut” or a “prostitute” is absurd. Do we call a man a slut when he purchases a bottle of Viagra? Typically not, and apparently that is a topic far different than the one regarding birth control, considering Viagra is covered by many insurance plans. Yes, a drug that serves only to facilitate sexual activity is apparently far more medically important than birth control, which has uses that extend beyond pregnancy.

And then I ask myself, well, with these seemingly boundless and liberal reproductive rights for men, what are these men’s justifications for wanting to restrict the reproductive rights of women?

Religion and conservatism are definitely driving factors — controversial procedures such as induced abortion typically go against conservative, Catholic and other Christian denominations’ ideals. Life is genderless — it is just as much an issue for a mother as it is for a father. However, a woman’s body is owned by her, not a religious institution and certainly not by a man. Obama even addressed this issue in Obamacare by exempting religious institutions from covering contraception. Clearly, it is more than just a battle of religious proportions.

It doesn’t stop there. Women as child-bearers means that they must care for more than just one body — it makes sense that anti-abortionists would want to support the unborn, voiceless child. This isn’t a battle of pro-life or pro-choice, it’s about pro-women. Perhaps this anti-contraception legislation will ensure that all children are born, but it completely neglects the safety of their mothers. It doesn’t address women who are victims of rape and consequent unwanted pregnancy or situations in which the mother’s life is in just as much peril as the child’s. Who would the men choose then? The mother among all recognizes the needs of a child who she has carried and nourished in her womb, birthed and taken care of for years after.

It’s unusual for a pharmacy to deny a condom to man just as it should be unusual for a woman to be denied birth control. When a married man has to sit down with his wife and figure out how to adjust their budget to pay for uninsured birth control pills, then they can talk.

Let’s give women’s reproductive freedoms back to the women. Male-dominated legislatures and religion influence a women’s reproductive choices, but it all comes down to the tail end of the debate: choice.

Adam is a junior in ACES. He can be reached at opinions@dailyillini.com.