Utah Joins the War on Contraception

Just weeks after California Representative Darrell Issa felt the need to call a special hearing to bemoan the oppression of the Catholic Church’s First Amendment rights–the freedom of religion–Utah Republicans are ready to legislate away another First Amendment right, their teachers’ right to free speech. The Utah House passed a bill, HB363, that would allow schools to ban sex ed and prohibits instruction in the use of contraception by a 45-28 vote. The bill now moves on to the state Senate.

But not to worry, the bill’s sponsor,  Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, “a dairyman“(!), has got the doublespeak down. Perhaps realizing that banning the discussion of contraception (under the guise of forbidding ”advocacy” of its use) might leave educators tongue-tied–and on the brink of a crime spree–if asked a direct question about contraception, he maintained that teachers could respond to students’ questions on the matter. How, exactly, he couldn’t say. The language of the bill states: “An instructor may respond to a spontaneous question as long as the response is consistent with the [bill's] provisions.”

Wright can be added to the ever-growing list of public officials who have gone on the record with their light-years-beyond-the-mainstream belief that birth control is a dodge, an “intellectually dishonest” way of “getting away with” sex. Boldly ignoring the biological truth that even married women aren’t able to get pregnant every day of their married life, he, along with Senator Santorum and the Catholic Church, have decided that sex is for procreation only and that the consequences of unprotected premarital sex aren’t grave enough already. (Apparently the threat of eternal damnation isn’t what it used to be.) Though Wright, like Santorum and the Church, professes to be protecting all of us from the consequences our mainstream “brainwashing” has left us unable to recognize without their intervention, everybody knows the wages of sexual sins are not distributed equally. To be sure, the Mormon influence in Utah may make it harder for an unmarried dad to shirk his parental responsibilities. Still, we all know who gets pregnant and who had to wear that scarlet letter.

There’s reason for hope though, even in this ultra-conservative state. Anyone who has visited Utah over the past thirty years can tell you how much influence the Mormon Church has lost over the state liquor laws. Where there once was no MTV, “16 and Pregnant” airs unmolested. And a Democratic lawmaker from Salt Lake City like Rep. Brian King can fight the self-appointed contraception police and go on the record saying that bills like HB363 make ”reasonable people think we have lost it up here on the Hill.”

The Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy is Powerful Women

Monday morning I took my own advice and went to The Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy’s Annual Spring Breakfast. Eleanor’s Legacy is dedicated to supporting Democratic women candidates, voters, and activists throughout New York State; and there was an abundance of each present. If my faith were ever to waver that New York is where Progressives have progressed most, I would need only to remind myself that three of the purported front runners in the upcoming mayoral election (none have declared their candidacy), City Council President Christine C. Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Comptroller John Liu all made a point to appear first thing in the morning of a busy work week. In New York, at least, women matter.

I don’t think I was the only one seeking some femme-positive spiritual affirmation. When President Nora Bredes introduced the newest Congresswoman from New York, Kathy Hochul, the applause that erupted in the room felt like a collective sigh of relief at having palpable proof that our sometimes frustrating efforts to promote feminist causes do pay off on occasion. If we are lucky, the reward can come in the form of a public servant like Hochul, who considers political activism a noble calling and believes it her duty to mentor women similarly inspired.

Bredes repeated the conventional narrative of Hochul’s election: Hochul’s win in the most Republican-leaning district in the state was a repudiation of Republican Paul Ryan’s plan to “reform” Medicare. Then she added that while she wished this were true, the real reason Hochul won was because she was a great candidate. [Read more...]