Richmond Times Dispatch Unfairly Compares Birth Control Mandate And Virginia Sodomy Law

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The Richmond Times Dispatch editorial board attacked progressive groups for appearing hypocritical in their defense of the Affordable Care Act birth control mandate while decrying Virginia's sodomy law. However, this represents a faulty comparison as birth control is legal and has definitive medical purposes while the state's sodomy law has been found unconstitutional and provides no medical benefit.

In the August 15 editorial, the Times Dispatch discussed recent activities by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and ProgressVA criticizing comments made by Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that allies should be willing to "go to jail" to fight against the federal mandate for contraception. The Times also noted ProgressVA's criticism of Cuccinelli's continued defense of the state's anti-sodomy law. The editorial goes on to accuse the progressive groups of hypocrisy, saying they want to "keep government in the bedroom" by supporting a law subsidizing birth control but "out of the bedroom" by not supporting the sodomy law:

So the AG is supposed to help keep government in the bedroom by supporting a law subsidizing birth control, but keep government out of the bedroom by not supporting the sodomy law. All clear?

Cuccinelli's stance is just as muddled. He can't very well say he is simply fulfilling a duty by defending one law while he urges individuals to break another one.

While the editorial correctly points out that Cuccinelli, who is running for Virginia governor, has a "muddled" stance on this issue, it is an unfair characterization for the editorial to claim the progressive groups are also being inconsistent.

First, birth control has many purposes that have nothing to do with the "bedroom." A study by the Guttmacher Institute found in 2011 that 1.5 million women use oral contraceptives solely for noncontraceptive purposes. In fact, many of these women use oral contraceptives to treat issues such as migraines and acne or to reduce cramps and menstrual pain:

The study--based on U.S government data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG)--revealed that after pregnancy prevention (86%), the most common reasons women use the pill include reducing cramps or menstrual pain (31%); menstrual regulation, which for some women may help prevent migraines and other painful "side effects" of menstruation (28%); treatment of acne (14%); and treatment of endometriosis (4%). Additionally, it found that some 762,000 women who have never had sex use the pill, and they do so almost exclusively (99%) for noncontraceptive reasons.

The ACA's mandate aims to make birth control more affordable for women. Many women who need this medication -- even those with private insurance - can find it prohibitively expensive to purchase. As a February 2012 factsheet from the Center for American Progress pointed out, women with private insurance still pay about 50 percent of the total costs for oral contraceptives compared to only 33 percent for noncontraceptive drugs, while women of reproductive age often "spend 68 percent more on out-of-pocket health care costs, in part because of contraceptive costs." 

As for the anti-sodomy law still on the books in Virginia that Cuccinelli continues to defend, the law provides no medical benefit to the community and was found unconstitutional in March. Recently, Cuccinelli's bid to continue to uphold this law hit another setback when U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts denied Cuccinelli's request that the state be allowed to continue to enforce the law while the Supreme Court decides if it wants to take up the case.

While its clear the Times Dispatch editorial board is no fan of the contraceptive mandate, it's unfair to ignore the clear medical benefits of providing contraceptive coverage to women while comparing it to a clearly unconstitutional law. 

Posted In
LGBTQ, Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Stories/Interests
State Media
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