In the days since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, allowing some employers to opt out of covering birth control in their employees’ health insurance packages, the critique from progressives has been consistent and clear: Reducing access to birth control is a major defeat for women. This assessment, of course, is ludicrous: Reducing access to birth control is a major defeat for everybody.
Now, I’m not trying to take anything away from women. I get that being better able to control pregnancy has a certain extra resonance when your body is able to get pregnant. So it’s totally fair to say that restrictions on access to birth control impact women more than men — but that doesn’t mean that men are unaffected, especially heterosexual men.
Real talk: If you’re a straight man who isn’t a virgin and isn’t a father, or if you are a man who is a father to a non-ridiculous number of children, you are almost certainly a beneficiary of birth control. Therefore, if you are a man in one of these categories, an attack on birth control is an attack on you. And you should probably be mad about it.
Indeed, right-wingers may howl about the ills of “consequence-free sex,” but consequence-free sex is actually an objectively good thing: Most people are going to end up having sex, they’re going to do it for non-procreative purposes — because they always have — and it is therefore in everyone’s interest, male and female, to not leave the consequences of sex to chance. Parenthood is simply too great a responsibility to bestow upon any man or woman who isn’t ready for it or doesn’t want to undertake it again, and that’s too important a principle for men to just pass the buck of responsibility on to women and say it’s a “women’s issue.”
It’s also worth pointing out that beyond the moral imperatives of contraception, it serves a variety of social benefits that are as good for men as they are for women: It’s good for economic growth, it’s good for businesses, and it’s good for marriages. Oh, and it also dramatically reduces the odds that a woman or baby will die during childbirth, which is probably something guys can get behind too.
Of course, this is the point where supporters of the Hobby Lobby decision inevitably argue that the question at issue in the case was not about the merits of birth control but rather about who should pay for it. Indeed, conservative Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. did say the government had a “compelling interest” in birth control being accessible but that there were ways to pursue this objective without unduly burdening certain businesses. I don’t agree with Alito’s analysis, but I can understand it.
On July 3, however, Alito and the five other male justices indicated that they might strike down the alternative arrangements for accessing birth control that just a few days earlier they had cited as a possible workable compromise. If that’s not undermining access to birth control — in effect if not intent — I don’t know what is.
The good news is that access to birth control in the United States has, overall, grown dramatically as a result of the Affordable Care Act. That’s a great thing for men and women alike. But the Hobby Lobby decision is a reminder to all of us that we must fight to defend the gains we’ve made. As we head into the 2014 and 2016 campaigns, men need to make it clear that universal access to birth control is our issue too.
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