On women's issues, the spectacular failure of a media culture stuck in the old white male bubble

Whoever said that abortion would be a sacrament if men could get pregnant got it exactly right. In the last couple of weeks, we have seen an extraordinary attack on American women, particularly on their access to birth control. It is an attack on women's health as much as one on the religious freedom of women who work for religiously-affiliated civil institutions to be free from the religious dictates of their employers. Women's advocates in the Senate were right to stand up and defend that freedom strongly:



But the media, by and large, is framing the issue in the most preposterous way possible. I watched a segment on Hardball on MSNBC yesterday, and Matthews himself was bloviating about a manufactured "right" of religious employers to trample on the personal moral and religious beliefs of their employees.

You know what I don't see on nationwide cable, for the most part? I don't see representatives of women's groups being invited to speak on this. I don't see members of Congress who have trailblazed women's issues being given an equal stage to the bloviating pundits and reactionary right wing politicians. Why not? What's the media's interest in framing this issue in the absurd terms of a church's right to treat their civil institutional employees as chattel rather than the First and Fourth Amendment rights of women?

In the midst of all the jumping up and down on this basic health care right for women, here's what the media is basically hiding from you, even on most shows on the so-called "liberal" MSNBC.

Sens. Boxer (can I just take a personal point of pride in her as a Californian and say that I love her?), Jeanne Shaheen and Patty Murray:
It was a historic victory for women's health when the Obama administration changed the law to require private health plans to provide preventive services including breast exams, HIV screening and contraception for free. This new policy will help millions of women get the affordable care they need.

Now, sadly, there is an aggressive and misleading campaign to deny this benefit to women. It is being waged in the name of religious liberty. But the real forces behind it are the same ones that sought to shut down the federal government last year over funding for women's health care. They are the same forces that just tried to pressure the Susan G. Komen Foundation into cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screenings. Once again, they are trying to force their politics on women's personal health-care decisions.

We are very glad that the president has stood up to these forces while protecting religious freedom on all sides. His administration should be commended, not criticized.
Planned Parenthood to President Obama:
Despite incredible pressure from anti-women's health groups and legislators determined to undermine women's access to birth control, you stood strong and did the right thing. Thank you for listening to the voices of doctors, nurses, and the millions of women who rely on birth control. Thank you for defending women's access to essential preventive health care.

When your administration made birth control coverage an essential part of health care reform, it was a huge victory for women and men everywhere. By protecting the women's birth control benefit, you have reaffirmed your commitment to protecting women's health.
NARAL Pro-Choice America:
The attacks have escalated all the way to the U.S. Senate, where there is a new bill that takes the Obama administration’s policy head on. It is designed to take away birth-control coverage from women who work as nurses, custodians, professors, and administrative staff at colleges and hospitals that oppose birth control.

Ninety-nine percent of women use birth control at some point in their lives. Requiring insurance plans to cover birth control at no cost to women is not just common sense, it’s critical to protecting women’s health.
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health:
Access to birth control is essential to Latinas, our families, and our communities. Rolling back the recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to require employers with few exceptions to provide health care plans that fully cover birth control would disproportionately hurt our communities. Latinas, including catholic Latinas, overwhelmingly support birth control coverage and access to the full rage of reproductive health services. (February 2012)
American Medical Women's Association:
The American Medical Women's Association applauds President Obama's decision to reject religious exemption on cost-free birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act. "To prevent unintended pregnancies, all women of reproductive age should have access to safe and effective contraception," said Dr. Mary Guinan, AMWA President. Cost of contraception has been a major factor in limiting access for uninsured and low-income women resulting in disproportionately high unintended pregnancy rates. Currently, even insured women can be denied contraceptive coverage.

With this insurance provision under the Affordable Care Act, American women will have equal access to contraception for the first time in history.
Feminist Majority Foundation:
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama Administration decided not to broaden the religious exemption for contraceptive coverage under the Preventive Care package of the Affordable Care Act. This request, primarily by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, would have denied millions of American women contraceptive coverage, including students, teachers, nurses, social workers, and other staff (and their families) at religiously-connected or associated schools, universities, and hospitals, as well as institutions, such as Catholic Charities. Please take a moment to thank Secretary Sebelius and President Obama for this decision in support of women's health.
Hadassah (a Jewish women's organization):
Supporters of the religious refusal clause have been actively lobbying the administration, also urging them to expand the clause for religiously affiliated organizations such as health systems, universities and social service agencies.

Hadassah remains a strong advocate for a woman's freedom of choice and opposes any attempts to restrict the right to reproductive choice and/or use of family planning services. Restrictions to reproductive healthcare deprive women of their right to make health decisions privately, in consultation with medical advice, and in accordance with their own religious, moral and ethical values.
Catholics for Choice: Bishops do not speak for Catholics!
As you know, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently ruled that under the Affordable Care Act, no-copay contraceptive coverage would be made available to employees of Catholic institutions and their family members who receive benefits. This was an important victory for the many women and men who need contraception coverage.

Unfortunately, the hierarchy of the Catholic church sees the decision differently. The bishops will stop at nothing to repeal this important decision. They have begun an all-out blitz in an attempt to portray the HHS ruling as an “attack” on Catholics. We know this is not true – we know that Catholics throughout the country use contraception. It is time to tell our local media that the bishops are out of touch with the lived reality of the Catholic people. The bishops do not speak for us on this decision!
Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health:
Faith-based organizations shouldn't be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage for their employees. Every woman deserves affordable health care, including contraception, regardless of where she works. Please call President Obama now and urge him to resist all efforts to expand the faith-based refusal exception to Health and Human Services' rules on insurance coverage for birth control.
This is just a small sampling of what people and organizations with a long history of working for women's issues have to say. And these are the voices curiously absent from the media - online and on TV. Even a casual observer has to ask why. Why are the voices of women's advocates (in Congress and in the public sphere) and professionals charged with caring for women absent from an issue that profoundly affects women's health along with women's first and fourth amendment rights? Why is every "debate" we see on the dumb-box about how the White House has "handled" the situation or how it's a religious freedom issue for the Church (as opposed to women)? Why are political pundits of all people called in to "debate" the merits of this decision instead of women's rights advocates and medical professionals?

And why isn't anyone asking about why it is that the American media, a large part of the American legislature and an entire American political party is so dedicated complying with the demands of a foreigner over the rights and health of American women? The Pope, last I checked, isn't American, after all.

Why, indeed. Couldn't a blogger be forgiven for blaming it on a national media establishment that is to this day prone to examining issue through a old, white, male prism? You hear people equate religious African Americans with the religious white evangelicals, and wonder why they don't have similar voting patterns. You are hearing now about religious Catholic Latinos who the media tells us might turn against Obama because of this, why? Because they see the white male religious crowd doing that. You hear national hosts like Chris Matthews dismiss out of hand the notion that this is a woman's issue at all.

The national media looks at this quintessentially women's issue through such a old white male prism that they cannot even fathom the diverse schools of thought that exist outside that prism and that bubble.