A recent Congressional hearing on the contraception mandate (in which Bishop Lori told the well-publicized “Parable of the Kosher Deli”) prompted two Democratic congresswomen to walk-out “in protest” at the apparent gender imbalance of the testifying panel. “Where are the women?,” asked Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) before she and another representative (Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, DC) left the room.
Such an ‘objection’ is extraordinarily divisive on an elementary level, pitting the sexes against each other for momentary political gain. The underlying argument is also almost comically disingenuous. First, it bears pointing out, men are directly affected by this mandate. Men and women alike were being asked to pay for contraceptive coverage, a fact which entitles both groups to a say. And on the more personal side of “reproductive health” issues, it is still impossible to disentangle men from the process. Yet, even accepting this dubious distinction, if speech on any matter is restricted to the group being “directly affected,” contemporary Americans are thus disqualified from voicing support for rebel movements in oppressive regimes abroad; the wealthy out of bounds in supporting poverty alleviation programs; and even white abolitionists in pre-Civil War America, by this line of thinking, acted inappropriately, never having directly lived the experience they so passionately decried. Indeed, following this logic, Roe v. Wade itself ought to be overturned—the verdict was a decision of seven men (all of whom, with the sole exception of Thurgood Marshall, were elderly, well-off, and white to boot).
Unfortunately, those who wield this objection, particularly in their roles in the public square, tend to do it more out of cynicism than genuine belief. It’s a bullying tactic, so it’s often highly effective. But, like all bullying tactics, it distorts reality and misses the point. For the irony underlying this misleading argument is that, actually, plenty of women are opposed to the HHS mandate. At last week’s hearing, for example, was Rep. Mary Ann Buerkle of New York, a staunch supporter of religious liberty claims. And two other women, it turns out, were waiting to testify for the panel’s second round. As Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review notes, countless Catholic women who are engaged in this debate are highly supportive of their Church and sympathetic to the concerns about religious liberty. Read her post at The Corner for more details.
So “where are the women?” Some, it scandalously turns out, are actively opposing the policies of Sebelius, Maloney, and Norton.