It is not uncommon for people to repeat particular behaviors based on their life experience and environment to the point their actions and way of thinking becomes an ethos unto itself. People familiar with convicted felons recognize that the high rate of recidivism is based on a deeply entrenched culture that criminal behavior is normal and following accepted societal norms for behavior is foreign. For the past four years Republicans have adopted a style of governance that informs their obstructionism and hostage-taking, although outside political norms, has become part of their culture that doesn’t bode well for Americans or the government. This week, House Republicans proposed they will shut down the government unless they are allowed to restrict women’s access to contraception that defines their culture that governance entails threats to impose religion on government and the people.
On Tuesday, in advance of negotiations for a continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown before March 27, fourteen Republicans wrote to Republican leadership demanding that the continuing resolution must repeal the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans also introduced (again) a bill to repeal the mandate to make their point that religious employers’ divine right to control women’s reproductive health, and their wont to inject religious dogmata into law, will be enforced under threat of holding government funding as a hostage.
Republicans used the absurd “religious liberty” argument to oppose contraception coverage since the President announced it was part of the Affordable Care Act, and they are again demanding that religious employers be allowed to exercise their religious liberty by denying women access to birth control. The legislators wrote that “This attack on religious freedom demands immediate congressional action. Nothing short of a full exemption for both nonprofit and for-profit entities will satisfy the demands of the Constitution and common sense” that means Christian fundamentalists demand the right to control women’s reproductive health. It is likely the religious freedom advocates are demanding contraception coverage repeal in support of craft store chain, Hobby Lobby, whose owners defied a court ruling in late December to provide copay-free birth control access to its employees. Apparently Hobby Lobby’s owner believes the law, judicial system, and women’s right to control their reproductive health is the purview of his religious inclinations, and Republicans are providing their support with threats to withhold funding for the government.
Women are already under attack with the enactment of sequester cuts that eliminates $86 million from family planning and reproductive health services, and to help Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO, David Green, impose his religious belief on his employees, Republicans will use budget negotiations to continue Christian conservatives’ war on women. Hobby Lobby was “built and will continue to be built on strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with Biblical principles,” and integral to consistency with biblical principles and honoring the lord is Green’s religious freedom to dictate that women are not entitled to contraceptives. Perhaps Green is unaware that his religious liberty already protects him from being forced by the government to use an IUD, diaphragm, or birth control pills, but not to force women to submit to his Draconian “strong values” founded in his religious beliefs.
One of the Republicans leading the charge to force the government to follow religious demands and repeal the contraceptive coverage mandate is Tennessee congresswoman Diane Black who early in the 113th Congress introduced a measure to defund Planned Parenthood. Several other House Republicans re-introduced Paul Ryan’s Sanctity of Human Life Act (again) that grants personhood to a single celled organism in a devious attempt to ban contraception. The measures religious Republicans are taking to ban contraception are counter-intuitive to their opposition to abortion, because better access to cost-free contraception reduces the number of unintended pregnancies, and by extension abortion, and it gives women financial freedom to decide when they begin having children, but women’s freedom and Christian fundamentalism cannot co-exist in a rapidly expanding theocracy that seeks insert biblical gender inequality into the law.
One of the features of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate was that although it didn’t eradicate gender inequality in healthcare costs, it did level the playing field, and mandated contraceptive coverage was a major factor. However, Republicans oppose gender equality and they have a powerful weapon in religious liberty activists who will go to any means to deny women access to contraceptives as evidenced by Hobby Lobby’s refusal to follow the law and courts. For Hobby Lobby and religious liberty advocates, the contraceptive mandate is not an economic issue, it is purely religious because Hobby Lobby is paying $1.3 million in fines daily that far exceed the cost of following the law and the majority of Americans who do not agree the mandate infringes on fundamentalists’ religious liberty.
In Republican-controlled states, women’s reproductive health is under increasing assaults, and that House Republicans are threatening to hold government funding hostage unless fundamentalists are exempted from following the law, however despicable, is part of Republican culture and philosophy for ruling from the minority. It worked during 2011’s debt ceiling crisis that created sequestration cuts and America’s first credit downgrade, and it worked in 2010 when they held unemployment benefits and payroll tax reduction hostage to maintain Bush-era tax cuts for the richest Americans. Now, to control women’s reproductive health, and place religion above the Constitution and will of the people, they are demanding their perverted interpretation of religious liberty is enforced as a condition of funding the government. It is hostage taking, an attack on women’s rights, and worst of all, the continuing saga of how America becomes a theocracy, and although decent Americans are appalled and outraged, Dominionists and their Republican facilitators are celebrating and identifying their next hostage.