Seattle's News Elixir

Editor's Note: Just as Erica was publishing her national roundup about the assault on women's rights, news came in at the local level that a Federal District Court Judge in Tacoma ruled against women's advocates and the state, saying that pharmacists and pharmacies can refuse to fill emergency contraception prescriptions based on religious or moral objections to contraception. We have been covering this case for several years now. Track our coverage here.

As this week's story about GOP efforts to classify dildos containing certain chemicals as "children's toys" that could potentially harm as-yet-unconceived fetuses demonstrates loud and clear, the war on women in this nation, and state, is reaching a fever pitch. Here's a look at some of the latest developments.

• Now that religious Republicans and Catholic bishops have convinced the Obama administration that no company should be required to pay for contraception if they personally object to women's right to avoid pregnancy (the "compromise" would allow women to get birth control directly from insurance companies in a separate transaction), the anti-contraception forces are going further, arguing that any company should be able, in effect, to force its insurance provider not to provide contraception (or any other service to which the company's owners have a moral objection). If Taco Bell, for example, objects to birth control, and they contract with Blue Cross, they should be able to veto Blue Cross's coverage of birth control for every company they cover.

This has obvious implications beyond "just" contraception (a service 99 percent of American women will use in their lifetimes); if a company objects to fertility treatments for lesbian women, or maternity care for single women, or STD treatments for gay men, the religious right's latest proposal would allow them to veto it for all employees of every company insured by their insurance company.

• Health insurance companies, for what it's worth, aren't exactly sold on the idea of footing the bill for every employer who decides to deny their female employees health insurance.

• Meanwhile, US tax law has stacked the system against women who need reproductive services to which the Catholic Church happens to object. (Sorry, but even Antonin Scalia has said there's no legitimate constitutional argument that contraception mandates violate freedom of conscience).

Because Catholic-run hospitals get special tax-exempt status from the government, they have generally prospered, while for-profit institutions have faltered. One result has been that Catholic hospitals have bought up for-profit institutions, which is exactly what has happened here in Seattle, where (Catholic) Providence merged with (secular) Swedish last year. After the merger, Swedish announced it would no longer provide abortion services. Now that  the ability not to get pregnant, as Sady Doyle pointed out yesterday, has become the new abortion in this country, it's hard to imagine that other reproductive services, including birth control, aren't next.[pullquote]Even Antonin Scalia has said there's no legitimate constitutional argument that contraception mandates violate freedom of conscience.[/pullquote]

• Good news, for now, from Virginia: After more than 1,000 men and women stood silently outside the Virginia state capitol to protest an anti-abortion law that would require women to get a transvaginal ultrasound (basically, a lengthy vaginal probe with a large dildo-like device) before a woman could get an abortion, Republicans in the legislature delayed a vote on the bill, and could ultimately make the expensive, invasive, and usually medically unnecessary procedure optional, rather than mandatory. (Meanwhile, a similar law remains in place in Texas ... and at least one national (CNN) commentator says forced vaginal penetration is A-OK because the women have already been penetrated at least once anyway.

• A new poll confirms what is probably obvious to most Americans: The vast majority of US citizens (67 percent) oppose allowing companies to deny doctor-recommended coverage like birth control based on their personal moral or religious beliefs.

• And in other states: Georgia Democrats facetiously propose limits on vasectomies because they deny the baby's right to be born; Rick Santorum came out against prenatal screening because ABORTION!; John McCain's daughter Meghan, who opposes abortion, went on Rachel Maddow to declare herself "horrified" by the Virginia proposal; and the Illinois state house's farming committee passed two anti-abortion measures, including an ultrasound mandate, while women protested outside, bearing signs that read "We are not livestock."

• And if all that isn't enough for you, conservative religious leaders are now saying that requiring non-religious entities to provide contraceptive coverage will force churches (which, again, are not required to provide birth control) to violate the dictates of the Holy Trinity, and that by mandated birth control coverage for non-religious entities, Obama is behaving just like Nazi Germany.
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