Reproductive Rights Safe In Missouri — For Now

“Theocracy is a form of government in which official policy is governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or is pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religion or religious group.”


Finally—finally—Governor Jay Nixon has done the right thing by vetoing Senate Bill 749, which essentially would make the vaginas of Missouri women subject to theocratic control. Here’s how the Post-Dispatch described the measure passed this year by a Republican-dominated legislature:

The bill would have allowed Missouri employers and insurers to decide not to provide coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization if such procedures ran contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

In January HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the Affordable Care Act would require that all health insurance plans provide, free of charge, contraception coverage, as well as coverage for sterilizations. That action pissed off pastors and priests all over the country, who insist that their theological tastes trump a woman’s right to manage her own vagina.

The Missouri Catholic Conference, which describes itself as “The public policy agency for the Catholic Church in Missouri,” is urging “enactment of SB 749, the governor’s veto notwithstanding.” That means, of course, the legislature overriding Nixon’s veto, which has a very good chance of happening. Republicans have more than enough votes in the Senate and need only three Democrats in the House to force women to live by others’ moral and theological convictions.

So, while Nixon did the right thing, the right thing may not survive a September override vote. Missouri women need to pressure their legislators between now and then or the zealots will prevail, and reproductive rights will become subject to a male-created theology.

Finally, I want to leave you with a message from the “Most Reverend” James V. Johnston, Bishop of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese:

The Catholic Church will never yield in her defense of both the sacredness of human life and the inseparability of the unitive and procreative aspects of conjugal love. This is a moment where each of us will be called to take a stand either for or against the Church.

For the reverend, this is not merely a hell-avoiding choice for women. It is a choice for men, too, who the last time I checked don’t have vaginas and can’t have babies. But for zealots, biology doesn’t get in the way of their fundamentalist imagination.

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  1. Jason

     /  July 13, 2012

    I can’t even see how contraception (or sterilization) is covered under “right to life” logic, since no sperm ever fertilizes an ova, so there is not moment of conception, and no “human life” is destroyed. If the logic is that the egg and sperm have been “wasted”, then that logic also applied to those who never had sex at all, the woman’s body flushes the ova, and even to guys who have never masturbated, since sperm are constantly dying off and being replaced.


    • Jason,

      Some anti-choice folks believe that there are forms of contraception that are actually abortifacients.  I think it depends on whether you think fertilization begins “pregnancy” or whether implantation does.

      But notice what the Bishop quoted above actually said, which is why I included it in the piece. He used this language:

      the inseparability of the unitive and procreative aspects of conjugal love.

      The idea is that people shouldn’t separate sex into its component parts, like, say, pleasure. The following is a good, though frightening, explanation from the reactionary Catholic point of view:

      Couples who use contraception are attempting to gain control over procreation. They seek control over whether or not they have children at all, over when their children will be conceived, how many children they will have, and when they will stop having children. Yet in trying to gain control over this aspect of their lives, the couple is also trying to limit the control which God ought to have over these decisions. You cannot have complete control over something and leave it in God’s hands.

      In using contraception, the couple is trying to eliminate the rightful influence which God has over the events of procreation. If a couple uses contraception, they are, by their actions, saying to God that they are unwilling to conceive a child, even if it be God’s will. Contraception is a sin, a serious sin, because contraception, by its very design, attempts to prevent God from taking His rightful role in the process of the procreation of God’s own children.

      You see? This issue is about control. And some folks think they are doing God’s bidding by controlling the bodies of women.



  2. I don’t know whether you want to invite such an observation as mine, but I’m a great fan of your writing style and your blog and hope you’ll not mind my saying that I think your writing would be stronger if you replace such phrases as “.. a woman’s right to manage her own vagina” with something like “a woman’s right to manage her own reproductive decisions.” And consider that saying “…men, too, who the last time I checked …can’t have babies.” makes the same point with more respect. It’s just that, for me at least, it feels as though one part of my body is taken to represent the whole me, and I feel degraded, belittled, by it. Of course others will disagree and may feel the need to degrade me in their own way by calling me a prude, but there it is.


    • Helen,

      Point well taken.

      The emphasis on “vagina” was meant to highlight the fixation that men have on controlling women’s personal health decisions, which I find absolutely strange, and the use of that particular word was meant to compact the absurdity of this issue into one word. And, Helen, I was inspired by this item in the news a while back:

      Two Democratic women in the Michigan House of Representatives, who used the words “vagina” and “vasectomy” in debating an abortion bill, had their privilege to speak withdrawn for a day on Thursday.

      State Rep. Lisa Brown triggered the silencing when she ended a speech with the words, “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no’.”

      Rep. Brown’s mere use of the word—a perfectly harmless word, I might add—was enough to upset the Republican men—men!—in the Michigan House. I find that telling, don’t you? They didn’t like the emphasis on that particular part of the body for some reason.

      But having said that, I think this point you made is valid:

      …it feels as though one part of my body is taken to represent the whole me, and I feel degraded, belittled, by it.

      I can understand that completely, but I would go further and say the entire issue degrades women by refusing to give them the personal autonomy they deserve as human beings. That’s sort of the point by sarcastically using the word “vagina.” Women are not represented by their vaginas, but by their brains, which are capable of making reproductive decisions without the input of men, particularly men wedded to Iron Age thinking.

      Thanks for the quite respectful and thoughtful (as usual) criticism.



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