Five men to thank this week

Jennifer Manning

On Monday, the majority of the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that closely held companies cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. That all five of these votes came entirely from men speaks volumes about the "war on women" in which our country is currently embroiled.

The ruling reminds us that women's health—and by this I mean more than merely contraceptive coverage—is not just a women's issue. Yesterday's vote affects women and men, because procreation necessarily involves women and men, and because conscience protection is not gender specific nor is it a partisan issue.

You didn’t think that’s where I was headed, did you?

The truth is: We gave up mutual responsibility for procreation long ago. When we praised the birth-control pill for giving women a newfound “freedom” and power over their fertility, when we widely accepted, nay, promoted sex outside of marriage, when we made abortion about a "woman's right to choose," we surrendered something quite difficult to get back—shared responsibility for what our bodies are made to do when we have sex: namely, to create life.

But even though it takes two to make a baby, we have given men the ability to opt out of parental responsibility if they choose. The forms of contraception that are covered by the Affordable Care Act all depend necessarily on the woman's faithful use of these devices, not the man's. Male condoms are not covered by the ACA. Also not covered are methods that both beget appreciation for the wonder that is the female reproductive system and require mutual responsibility, like Natural Family Planning or other fertility awareness methods. Why is that? If access to family planning is so integral to women's health, why is there no mutual responsibility? Truly this abdication of responsibility is evidence of a real war on women.

The five male justices who voted for religious freedom today made a move to take back some of that responsibility. Or, at least, to give individuals the freedom to follow their consciences.  The decision in the Hobby Lobby case marks an important victory for religious freedom.  Yet, one of the major talking points about yesterday's events will be that five men were the ones who decided what women should do with their bodies.

Frankly, I think it is a great sign that these five men voted for conscience protection. Sure, it would have been nice to have a unanimous decision—complete with the votes of the three female justices.  But maybe, just maybe, the fact that all of the votes came from men is a small step toward reclaiming personal and mutual responsibility for women’s health.  And that is something to celebrate.

Topics: Abortion , Contraception , Culture , Current Events , Politics

Jennifer Manning is a Catholic schoolteacher in Massachusetts and a volunteer with Catholic Voices USA.

View all articles by Jennifer Manning

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December 21, 2014


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