Reporting by the mainstream media, by which I mean mostly the inside the beltway media, regarding the Obama administration's rule about providing contraceptives as preventive health care under the new Affordable Care Act has been noticeably co-opted by the Catholic bishops. The press has basically swallowed hook, line, and sinker the outrage of these allegedly celibate old men who are in no way affected by the rule. Even such normally reasonable pundits as E.J. Dionne and Mark Shields have fallen in lockstep with their more conservative fellows on this issue. They are sure that President Obama has rung the death knell for his presidency and for his hopes for reelection with his stance on this issue. Catholics will never support him now. Republican leaders in Congress are trying to latch onto what they see as a winning issue by hopping on the bandwagon
One thing you might notice about all the reporters reporting and all those pontificating on the issue: They are almost all middle-aged or older white men who are not affected by the issue. What do those who are affected by it think? In other words, what do women think?
Surveys have shown that 99% of sexually active women in the country use, or have used, contraceptives. Moreover, the same surveys show that 98% of Catholic women use, or have used, contraceptives. Isn't it possible that all of these women might like to have their contraceptives covered by their insurance? Furthermore, isn't it possible that these women vote?
We are fortunate to have some women journalists who report and opine on the issue and I think they represent a more realistic view of the situation, For example, my favorite, Gail Collins, has a column about it in The New York Times today. As she astutely points out, there is nothing in this rule that prevents the celibate bishops and priests from preaching whatever they want to preach. It only prevents their imposing their religious views on others. Isn't this what America is supposed to be about?
In Salon.com, Joan Walsh, who is a practicing Catholic and a woman, has written about the issue as well. Her argument is that Catholics who themselves do not follow the bishops' directives on contraceptives (98% of Catholics) should not - and most likely will not - hold it against a president who refuses to enforce the bishops' religious dogma.
Also in Salon.com today, Sarah Posner makes the argument that we need a secular president, a secular government, because a government that is based on science and reason is most likely to ensure the religious freedom of all faiths.
Indeed, I think all aspects of government are best served by a philosophy based on science and reason. I'm very glad that we have some talented women journalists with unclouded vision who are willing to expound on that theme.
UPDATE: Here's more from Joan Walsh today on this important issue for women.