Ancient religious sex biases driving Trump’s new birth-control rules

Ancient religious sex biases driving Trump’s new birth-control rules January 18, 2019

Christian squeamishness about unconstrained sex was the fundamental reason a federal judge was compelled Jan 14 to constrain the Trump administration’s implementation of  new and questionable rules regarding dispensing of birth-control products.

birth control trump lawsuit
“Antibirth”: Birth control article, Minneapolis Sta Tribune, Nov. 2, 1965. (City of Minneapolis Archives, Flikr, CC BY 2.0)

A more cynical view, as one of my more astute commenters suggests, is plain old capitalist greed. But I believe good old-fashioned sexual morality has overridden that impulse in this case.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia agreed with state lawsuits filed by Pennsylvania and New Jersey claiming that the administration’s new rules, due to go into effect this week, posed “potential harm to states should the rules be enforced,” the Associated Press reported. A similar lawsuit by Washington state is under way in federal court in California.

Ruling that she believes the states are likely to win their lawsuits, Judge Beetlestone issued a temporary injunction against implementation of the new rules until those suits play out. The AP article reported she ruled that:

“Numerous citizens could lose contraceptive coverage … resulting in the increased use of state-funded contraceptive services, as well as increased costs to state services from unintended pregnancies.”

The summary paragraph of the new federal rules approved by the Department of Health and Human Services in November 2018, states:

“On November 7, 2018 the Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor (the Departments) announced two final rules, on display at the Federal Register, that provide conscience protections to Americans who have a religious or moral objection to health insurance that covers contraceptive methods, including certain contraceptives that many view as abortifacients, and/or sterilization procedures.”

In a nutshell, the rules expand the ability of companies to refuse to include birth-control coverage in the health plans they offer employees if they have not only religious objections but also moral ones.

Nonbelievers penalized

The upshot of both kinds of objections is, if the relevant companies are allowed contraceptive exemptions from the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”), employees who don’t subscribe to the religion or religious objections of their employers, will find it more difficult — and in many cases prohibitively expensive — to obtain legally available prescriptions for birth control.

In short, the religious opposition of companies trumps the desires of their employees to acquire contraceptives with the ease and at prices legally due all Americans not affected by employer religiosity or private rules of morality.

In a Jan. 15 editorial, the Seattle Times concluded:

“Should the new rules eventually take hold, they will allow many more employers to dodge the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they provide health-insurance coverage for contraceptives.”

These are very complex court cases about public policy, law and religious freedom, but they’re actually far simpler at heart. They are about Christian believers’ ancient views on sexuality gleaned from millennia-old books of superstitious dogma, and their need to force others to honor these views even if their lives are necessarily disrupted.

Bible: Rules for sex

The core of these beliefs is that the Bible purportedly commands, through God, that human beings must only have sex when matrimonial love is authentically expressed and procreation is purposefully intended. Thus, Christians have a dogmatically dim view of purely recreational, non-matrimonial sex.

Over centuries, this sexual prudishness among Christian faithful has expanded to demonize “artificial contraception,” presumably because it negates the biblical requirement that sex always be “procreative.” The Catholic Church remains the most doctrinaire about this, long viewing abstinence as the only morally acceptable form of birth control. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (Human Life), stated that “the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage exclude”:

“… any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.”

This kind of logic would also make fighting cancer immoral, as it intrinsically tries to manipulate and corrupt the laws of nature.

The gateway to promiscuity

Protestantism has evolved in a less rigid, though still constrained, manner regarding acceptable sexual activity of believers. Attitudes toward birth control vary between sects and subsects, but contemporary Religious Right groups such as Focus on the Family, consider contraceptives a gateway to promiscuity. The organization’s “Abstinence Policy,” from 2005 states:

“Sex is a powerful drive, and for most of human history it was firmly linked to marriage and childbearing. Only relatively recently has the act of sex commonly been divorced from marriage and procreation. Modern contraceptive inventions have given many an exaggerated sense of safety and prompted more people than ever before to move sexual expression outside the marriage boundary.”

In other words, birth control is a slippery slope to godlessness.

The question remains, why are such antiquated ideas based wholly on superstitious dogma still informing the modern laws of our secular republic?

The answer is that the founders of our nation, aware of the horrors that religious warfare and persecution inflicted on Europe, determined that citizens of the new land should be free to believe whatever they wanted — and that government could not compel them to believe otherwise or subscribe to alien faiths.

A ‘wall of separation’

But what the founders emphatically didn’t want is for any particular faith to dominate, which is why a “wall of separation” was enjoined between government and religion.

I am comfortable thinking that Thomas Jefferson, et al., if still alive, would see the Trump administration’s current birth-control end-run around the law to benefit Christians and disadvantage non-Christians as opposite to what the founders originally intended.

The way I see it, these new birth-control rules force non-Christians to indirectly pay homage to the Christian God by accepting disadvantages based on biblical precepts, not material reality.

In a more perfect union, the enormous and demonstrable advantages to our society of affordable (free, if necessary) and universally available birth control would always trump — no pun intended — invented sectarian moralities.

These contraceptive products would be equally available to everyone under every health plan offered by any business, and the people would choose for themselves whether or not to use them, not their employers (who may be religious zealots).

The Hobby Lobby case

The legal environment around this grew murkier after the so-named U.S. Supreme Court “Hobby Lobby Case” in 2014 — Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al. v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. — that legally empowered even small, closely held family companies to opt out of the Affordable Care Acts contraceptive requirements (including “day after” pills) for religious reasons, even if it negatively and unequally affects their employees in relation to other Americans.

The Trump administration’s new rules have the same genesis — they were created ostensibly to give Americans greater religious freedom in their health-care decisions regarding sexuality, but, in fact, allow them to enforce their private views and lifestyle on the constitutional freedoms of others.

When are we going to cleanse secular American law of such religious corruptions?


Please sign up (top right) for new Godzooks posts via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Image from “3,001 Arabian Days” — Son of an Arabian American Oil Co. (Aramco) employee learns to ride a camel in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 1955. (Photo courtesy Saudi Aramco)

Available on Amazon!

FYI, my new memoir — 3,001 Arabian Days — is now available in paperback and ebook formats on Amazon, here. It’s the story of growing up in an American oil camp in the Saudi Arabian desert from 1953-1962.

Reader review:

“Author Snedeker’s wit and insights illuminate the book’s easy narrative. His journalistic style faithfully recreates the people, places and events, and keeps the story crisp and moving from one chapter to the next. More than a coming of age story, 3,001 Arabian Days is a moving tribute to the intricacies of family, a celebration of Saudi Arabian culture, and a glimpse into a time gone by, but whose shadowy specter you can still almost reach out and touch.” — Mark Kennedy

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!