The Secret Sexist Roots of the HHS Contraception Mandate

098It didn’t come up in the Supreme Court arguments.

No one is mentioning it in major papers.

But the HHS contraception mandate has a secret sexist past.

And present.

Forget everything you’ve been told by supporters about how the contraception mandate is necessary to help working families, especially low-income working families, afford birth control, because that’s not why the Obama Administration is pushing it.

Here’s how we know: the mandate doesn’t require that covered companies extend birth control benefits to all employees who want their birth control covered, or even to all lower-income employees.

It only covers birth control methods for women. Under HHS Mandate requirements:

  • If you are a female employee of a company subject to the mandate who wants the full cost of your birth control pills paid for by your insurance: covered.
  • If you are a male employee of the same company who wants his condoms paid by insurance: not covered.
  • If you are a woman wanting a sterilization procedure such as a tubal ligation: covered.
  • If you are a man seeking a vasectomy: not covered.

Birth control, at least to anyone not so blinded by ideology that they cannot perceive basic biology, is the ultimate it-takes-two-to-tango issue. No woman ever got pregnant alone.

So why did the Obama Administration specifically create rules that cover women and not men?

Because the Administration’s purpose in pushing the mandate is only tangentially birth control.

Its actual, overriding purpose is to improve the economic and social position of women relative to the economic and social position of men.

Not improve the position of women in absolute terms, or women and men both in absolute terms, but the economic and social position of women relative to that of men.

Don’t take my word for it. Look at the Federal Register, where the Administration laid out its reasons for imposing the mandate and for doing it the way it did – a document very significant legally, but also one that the Administration realizes few Americans will ever read.

In it, the Administration says that the lack of mandated birth control coverage prior to passage of ObamaCare created a disparity, and “this disparity placed women in the workforce at a disadvantage compared to their male coworkers. Research shows that access to contraception improves the social and economic status of women.”

The next paragraph says that eliminating birth control co-pays “is particularly critical to addressing the gender disparity of concern here.”

The next paragraph refers to “gender equity interests” as “compelling.”

Another speaks of the need to “lessen the disparity between men’s and women’s health care costs.”

And notice that in yet another paragraph, “gender equality” takes a front seat to achieving the underlying goals of the Affordable Care Act: “…there are significant benefits associated with contraceptive coverage without cost sharing. Such coverage significantly furthers the governmental interests in promoting public health and gender equality, and promotes the underlying goals of the Exchanges and the Affordable Care Act more generally.”

Notice what all of these paragraphs do not say. They do not say that low-income families have trouble paying for birth control and the HHS mandate is a way to help them. They do not note that while the pill may be only $9 a month at Walmart, that $9 is a lot of money if you make minimum wage. They do not say that both women and men tend to be better off economically if they do not have children to support, or acknowledge that while it is true that only women can get pregnant, it is not true that only women can use birth control or get sterilized. And they also do not say that if anyone actually has a “right” to birth control, then surely both genders have that “right” equally, as men, last I noticed, have equal civil rights to women.

No, the focus is on “gender disparity” – women supposedly not doing as well as men economically and socially, and the need to empower women relative to men.

The HHS mandate is about feminism. Health care is secondary. Perhaps even incidental.

If you still doubt, ask yourself this: If the mandate is intended to help all working families afford birth control, why did HHS purposefully write it to exclude comparable benefits to men?

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