I Am Mad About A Thing: Go Big For The Ladies, Democrats, Or GTFO
I'm probably not supposed to say this. I should be a Good Democrat and a Good Feminist and take the latest symbolic crumbs Senate Democrats are offering and say, "Thank you, sir." (They are mostly sir, of course, which is part of ALL the problems, but let's not even get into that right now.)
In response to the Supreme Court's god-frickin'-awful decision on Hobby Lobby, Democrats are taking a Bold StandTM by introducing a bill, which they are going to fast-track so they can vote on it immediately, to "fix" the Court's decision. Let's put aside the question of whether this bill, if it were to pass the Senate, would ever see the light of day in the House (the answer is no, of course not, are you high?), and pretend this is not mostly a symbolic gesture intended to appeal to women voters and reach out to the base because it's an election year, in case you hadn't noticed.
The bill, which is co-authored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), would ban for-profit companies from refusing to cover any federally guaranteed health benefits for religious reasons, including all 20 forms of contraception detailed in the Affordable Care Act. It would preserve the contraception mandate's current exemption for churches and accommodation for non-profit religious organizations, such as certain hospitals and schools.
Now, I don't doubt the sincerity of Sen. Murray. I believe she is as mad as hell and does not want to take it anymore. In an interview in April about the case, she said, "there are more people willing to stand up and make the case that women should make their own health care decisions." And yes, I think she's one of them. And yes, I think there are others in the Senate and in the House, and they believe the assault on women's health care is atrocious, the Supreme Court's decision is atrocious, and something should be done, even if, let's face it, they're not going to get this done.
BUT. Oh yes, there is a BUT.
If Democrats are going to continue the mistake of the Obama administration by conceding that any objections to women’s health care — by anyone, for any reason — are valid, WHAT IS EVEN THE GODDAMNED POINT? These objections are not valid. They are not based on science or medicine or the public welfare. They have no place in determining health care policy. They never have.
And yet, in the very bill to “fix” the Hobby Lobby problem, Democrats — because they are, sigh, Democrats — say that some sons of bitches who think religious objections to health care TOTALLY have a point, just not those closely held corporation sons of bitches, because that’s RIDICULOUS!, but as for churches and non-profits, that’s not RIDICULOUS!, that’s reasonable because religion and stuff.
No. Hell no. Hell fucking no. That’s the first mistake.
Here’s the second. As long as Democrats are making bold fast-tracked, base-rallying gestures to record for posterity their OUTRAGE!!!! — and to remind the lady voters this fall that at least Democrats tried because oh yeah, it’s an election year in case you’d forgotten — why think so small? Why fight for one little fix to one problem? Why not go big, go for the whole damned thing, and fast-track the Equal Rights Amendment?
If the political strategy is to force Senate Republicans to cast an awkward vote against women, which, by the way, they will do proudly in the name of “religious liberty,” why not make it awkward for them for real? “Sen. So-and-So voted against equal freakin' rights” is a much better ad than “Sen. So-And-So voted against a bill to address the gap in the contraception mandate that currently allows employers with sincerely held religious beliefs to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz … ”
Yeah, yeah. I know. It’s a start. It’s better than nothing. Let’s be Realistic And Serious because we are Democrats, sigh, and Democrats try to be Realistic And Serious. But if we’re being Realistic And Serious, we should admit the bill won’t pass anyway, so why not raise some actual genuine hell to make a much more serious and pressing point?
Not only would the Equal Rights Amendment fix Hobby Lobby, and all of the state restrictions on abortion access — Sen. Richard Blumenthal last year introduced the Women’s Health Care Act to do exactly that, and of course that bill went exactly nowhere — but it would fix a lot of other problems too, like our unfair pay and discrimination in the workplace and all the trazillion other ways we get special treatment in the not good way because we are women, and there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the government can’t do that. (No, really, it’s true. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says you can’t do that. Justice Scalia said so, and at the risk of making myself nauseous, he’s got a point.)
Look, I am not a total idiot. I know that when it comes to the rights of women, the Democratic Party is eleventeen trazillion times better than the Republican Party. Democrats are all, “Yes, we think violence against women is actually a bad thing that we should try to reduce,” while Republicans are all, “SHUT UP, OBAMA BENGHAZI TAX CUTS GRRRRRRRR!” Democrats are all, “We think women should be paid equally to men, let’s try to make that happen somehow,” while Republicans are all, “SHUT UP, YOU’RE THE REAL SEXISTS, WOMEN DON’T CARE ABOUT MONEY GRRRRRRRR!” Democrats are all, “We believe in a woman’s right to choose [hush-hush voice] an abortion, but we don’t like to say that word because abortion is a Terrible Tragedy, but it should be safe (yes), legal (it is), and rare (because stigmatizing abortion sure is great strategy).” Republicans are all “BABIES! AMERICAN HOLOCAUST! GRRRRRRRR!”
Sigh. Yes, Democrats are better than Republicans. Syphilis is better than Republicans. Maybe we should raise the bar just a tiny bit. If Democrats want to be the party that is good for women, not just the party that isn’t as bad for women, they need to stop conceding THE WHOLE GODDAMNED POINT. Women’s health care is not a separate, special issue for the public to debate, for judges to define, for anyone to restrict because of their beliefs. Discriminating against women because they are women — and make no mistake, restricting health care for women is discrimination — IS BULLSHIT. It is patriarchal, unjust, un-American, un-good sexist BULLSHIT. We pretend that, in retrospect, sure, the Constitution’s got us covered if you squint and read between the lines. Even though, despite the equal protection of the 14th Amendment, we didn’t get the vote until 1920. It was perfectly fine and legal to pay women less just for being women until 1963. (And by the way, we’re still working on that.) We didn’t get the right to have credit in our own names until 1974. And it is still legal to create an entirely separate body of laws to regulate health care only for women. As the Supreme Court just reminded us, that’s perfectly constitutional. That’s the real problem we need to fix. And I am so sick and tired of being so sick and tired of being grateful for not-as-bad-as-the-other-guys crumbs. Pretty damned sure, by the way, I’m not the only one.
So come on, Democrats. Go big for the ladies, or get the fuck out.
Follow Kaili Joy Gray on Twitter or GTFO.