A Father's Perspective on the Contraception War

In recent weeks, the nation has talked more about contraception than at any other time during my 58 years of life. Many Republican office holders and outspoken Catholic bishops call the discussion one of religious liberty.

For me, it is a matter of whom I trust. As the father of two young adults, I trust them to make thoughtful moral choices about contraception and sexuality far more than I trust John Boehner, Rick Santorum, or the (all male) parade of Catholic bishops.

My wife and I worked hard to raise our kids -- one son and one daughter. Anyone who knows us will recall it was joyous but definitely not always easy. We made mistakes. They made mistakes. And now out of college, they are great young adults. They have jobs. Working hard to make a difference in the lives of others. Great friends. And they are thoughtful about relationships. We could not be more proud.

I am delighted that the struggles of generations that came before them have meant that contraception is available to them and their romantic partners.

Why would any a parent wish otherwise?

One of the best features of the health reform law now slowly being implemented is that private insurance is required to cover -- at no additional cost -- certain key items of preventive health care. My company and hundreds of thousands of our activists -- advocated for the inclusion of contraception, and we were pleased when the Secretary of Health and Human Services agreed.

We fought to limit the number of employers and employees who would be discriminated against under a religious employer exemption, and were pleased when the Obama administration stuck to the principle of universal coverage. For there are literally hundreds of thousands of employees of many faiths and of no faiths who work in religious organizations.

But the Catholic bishops are not satisfied. They do not trust the employees of their own religious organizations to make faithful decisions. They would not trust my son or my daughter or their partners or friends. They want to make these decisions for them.

And now much of the Republican leadership -- such as Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader McConnell, and presidential candidates -- have taken up the challenge, and support legislation that would allow ANY organization to disallow coverage of any medical procedure or service that it asserts causes it moral qualms.

That is, Boehner, McConnell and their kin want to empower the largely male leadership of corporate America to join with the entirely male power structure of the Catholic hierarchy to decide whether contraception -- and much more -- is an available choice for the young adults of the country.

Why would I possibly trust these men to make responsible choices for my young adult children? Do they know them? Do they share their values?

While I am utterly appalled at the rhetoric spewing from the mouths of these mistrustful, power-hungry men, I am not surprised. These same men have opposed contraception for decades. Among the Supreme Court rulings they hope to eventually reverse is the pivotal case of Griswold vs. Connecticut, in which the Supreme Court ruled that a state could not outlaw the use of contraception, as Connecticut then did.

Who doubts that much of the Republican right long for the ability to outlaw contraception as part of its social agenda? Thousands of people have petitioned presidential candidate Romney to answer the question of whether he supports Griswold vs. Connecticut. Total silence has been the answer.

Much has been made of the right-wing assault on women, with attacks on reproductive rights, contraception and the very definition of rape. And there surely is such an assault.

But this assault is not solely on women, as all people -- single people, men and women, married people, socially active people, and parents -- have a fundamental interest in putting the decisions about the availability of contraception in the hands of those who make sexual choices, rather than the powerful men who seek to control them.

I say to Boehner, McConnell, the bishops, and all those who seek to control the young adults of our country, you have not earned my trust. My kids have. Back off and let them decide.