Men Who Stare at Zygotes
The comic war film with a title similar to this article’s concerns attempts by U. S. military forces to use psychic powers. This article discusses the attempts of opportunistic, reactionary politicians to use psychological warfare against the American citizenry. As with the film, these hysterical charges would be comic if they were not so indicative of the routine readiness of such scoundrels to attack and undermine the full human and civil equality of female Americans.
In the fevered minds of these demagogues, corporations are people; institutions are people, men are people, and zygotes are people. Only women are something other than people. Despite the efforts made to disguise their bigotry, reactionary politicians cannot and will not concede that female Americans are fully citizens entitled to equal protection of the law and the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If the reactionary politicians would make such a concession, they would lose a pretext for attacking the Obama administration on the contraceptive coverage ruling pursuant to the Affordable Care Act [ACA]. Of course opportunists never forgo chances to press their case no matter how distorted, dishonest, and deceptive that case may be.
Men Who Stare at Zygotes [MWS@Z] see aggrieved people all around them. The problem is most of Americans do not recognize the aggrieved people they see as people. Despite the heated clamor from the MWS@Z brigade, corporations, institutions, and zygotes are not commonly recognized as people. The first dictionary definition of the word people is usually human beings. Corporations in contrast are defined as “fictional legal entities which have rights and duties independent of the rights and duties of real persons, i. e., human beings. The definition for institutions is organizations or foundations devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program particularly one of a public or charitable character. Finally, a zygote is a one-celled organism that results when female and male gametes join through sexual reproduction. Whatever else they may clearly and surely be corporations, institutions, and zygotes are not people. They are in the first two cases formed and operated by people. In the last case, the one-celled organisms may develop into people if the united gametes came from people, but single human cells are not people as intended in the statement: “We the People of the United States … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” This statement uses the term people in its basic meaning: human beings.
On the basis of “We the People” let us consider the furor reactionary opportunists are striving to create regarding the contraception coverage rule. The rule specifies: “Women will have access to all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling.” It further stipulates, “These recommendations do not include abortifacient drugs.” This exclusion goes to a false, but explosive, contention many reactionary demagogues make in this context. The rule does not require any organizations to provide coverage for abortive drugs. It does require coverage for “emergency contraception,” but contrary to misstatements by the reactionaries these medications are not abortifacient drugs. The so-called morning-after pill works in three ways. It prevents ovulation; it thickens cervical mucus and keeps the sperm from joining with the egg, and in theory, it can thin the uterine lining and prevent attachment by a fertilized egg. None of these affects is recognized by any reasonable observer as abortive. An abortion is the expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus of a pregnant woman either spontaneously or through inducement. Emergency contraception operates well before an embryo or fetus exists and thus, it is birth control not abortion. If a politician believes in a religious doctrine such as ensoulment, such a politician may believe a zygote is a person and thus, preventing attachment is an abortion. Such beliefs notwithstanding, however, sectarian doctrine cannot dictate either civil law or public policy. This reality irritates reactionary politicians who fervently want to impose their sectarian beliefs on the entire American populace.
In addition to the First Amendment protection of people in the free exercise of their religion, the Fourteenth Amendment protects human beings in many other ways. In Section 1, this amendment states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Nothing in this amendment confers any right on corporations, institutions, or zygotes. Prior to the ACA women had been largely denied equal protection of the laws in health care coverage. The ruling reactionary opportunists now protest so vehemently is one aspect of the ACA’s attempt to rectify this persistent disservice to women.
The politicians exploiting this trumped up controversy try to conflate the fact that the Affordable Care Act regulations require religiously-affiliated hospitals, universities, and charities to provide contraceptive coverage without additional co-pays for all employees with the free exercise of religion protection in the First Amendment. Such an argument sounds important until one thinks it through. The First Amendment protection pertains to people [human beings]. It applies to all human beings, not simply to human beings in positions of institutional authority. Consequently, professors, nurses, custodians, clerks, aides, and all other employees of religiously-affiliated organizations have a protected right to free exercise of religion. It is these people who are empowered in their free exercise by the contraceptive coverage regulation. They make the decision rather than having to submit to decisions made by their bosses or bishops. Furthermore, the ACA provides an exemption for religious employers. “A religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets;” and is a non-profit organization under the IRS code. Religiously-affiliated universities, hospitals, and charities do not meet the first three elements of exemption. Whatever else such organizations are they are not religious in purpose. They are educational, medical, or charitable entities and therefore, are held to the same standard as all other educational, medical, and charitable organizations.
This regulation is not an affront to religious liberty, but rather a recognition that millions of women are under the authority of men with whom they may differ religiously. Even if the women and men share a religious denomination, they are distinct individuals and every one of them has the rights of conscience and free exercise protected by the First Amendment. Even within the pews of a church every person has these same protected rights. How much more would diverse individuals have equal rights on the campuses of universities, the wards of hospitals, or the offices of a charitable foundation? In cannot be over emphasized that this is the crux of the matter. Bishops have issued letters to be read from pulpits that purport to defend religious liberty. What they defend, however, it the right of a hierarchy to impose its decisions on all parishioners. In so doing, they deny to the individual parishioners what they claim for themselves. Because the Catholic hierarchy is exclusively male, the arrogance of this proposition is even more blatant. The MWS@Z brigade in both its priestly and politician regiments must not be allowed to get away with this reactionary power grab.
Jefferson declared, “I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.” Now bishops and the politicians who seek to curry favor with them seek to impose their orthodoxy on the entire nation. Jefferson and others among the Founders and Framers of the Republic fought and sought to deprive ecclesiastical hierarchies of state power. If we allow the reactionary opportunists to subvert the barriers to theocracy erected in the Constitution, we will have betrayed our most precious heritage. If we fail to come together to ensure equal protection of the laws to female Americans, we will be complicit in a true crime against humanity.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, conscience, contraception, equality, Religion, women