There was a time when members of Congress were sometimes accused of sponsoring “Mom and apple pie legislation.” Examples were bills in the form of resolutions honoring veterans and other heroes, bills congratulating athletic champions, and bills confirming Social Security cost-of-living adjustments. The point of such bills was to give members of Congress some zero-risk, zero-controversy topics to crow about when they went back home to campaign for reelection.
One would think that a bill proclaiming the right of American adults to purchase contraceptive pills and devices would fall into that same no-risk category. After all, what voter in the year 2022 could possibly oppose granting a free choice to other adults, especially when contraception might assist in the prevention of unwanted abortions?
In the upside-down world of Life in the Times of Trump, the idea of our federal government guaranteeing anything has become taboo to most Republicans.
It’s as though our Civil War had never been fought and won by the forces of the Union. It’s as though the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U. S. Constitution had never been ratified as important national guarantees against future state encroachments upon the rights of individual citizens. (It’s worth remembering that these amendments were designed specifically to prevent states from allowing their own people to be oppressed.)
To understand the absurdity of modern Republican thought, one need only pretend that the logic of 2022 was being applied to the institution of slavery in the year 1860.
“The U. S. Constitution does not empower our federal government to abolish slavery!” they would claim. “It’s a decision for the states. In fact, we’re so sure about our notions of States’ Rights that we plan to secede from the Union if those anti-slavery agitators keep talking about the so-called human rights of the property we bought and paid for with our own money.” (Meaning their slaves.)
Fast forward back to the year 2022. This week, the U. S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would protect access to contraceptives. The legislation, which a mere twenty years ago would have been considered “Mom and apple-pie legislation,” was opposed by 195 Republicans. Their primary argument sounded much like the arguments posed by slave owners in 1860. “The federal government has no right to intrude upon states’ rights in these matters.” Only 8 Republicans voted with 220 Democrats to create the final majority vote.
Some conservatives would argue that a person’s freedom to control the most private aspects of her personal health is a far cry from a person’s right to be free from slavery. Spirited Reasoners, especially women, beg to differ.