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ObamaCare, Contraception, and the War on Women

What is the war on women? The phrase has been used by various political groups to characterize attitudes related to the perspective on women’s roles in the home and workplace. In recent days, the idea of a war on women has been used to describe the debate over whether or not the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., ObamaCare) should provide all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives to women at no cost to them. The typical accusations of a war against women have been lobbed against conservatives who seek to limit the government’s role in providing contraceptives.

Now it seems that a new front of the war on women has been opened, but this time it comes from a very unlikely place–progressives attempting to justify the contraceptive mandate of ObamaCare.

A number of articles have appeared in recent days highlighting a series of ads produced by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado. These ads seek to explain why young adults, particularly young women, should sign up for insurance on the new health exchanges.

Even though there are a few different versions, the theme of these advertisements directed at women is that you need free contraceptives in order to participate in promiscuous sexual activity without regret. Without these free contraceptives, you may not be able to “enjoy” the liberation of your sexuality.

In an interview with The Denver Post, Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, attempted to justify the ads promoting promiscuous behavior. She stated, “People get upset when you portray women as independent. We think this ad is really about healthy relationships and that people are taking control of their lives with health care.”

The problem with these ads is twofold. First, they objectify women by speaking of them in exclusively sexual terms. In one of the ads, a cut-out of Ryan Gosling is portrayed as being “excited about getting to know” the real-life girl pictured in the ad. His excitement stems from the fact that she has easy access to birth control.

This perspective on women is demeaning and unbiblical. Yes, God created man and woman with a sexual nature (He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply in Genesis 1:28). However, we are all much more than our sexuality. We are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and have value as persons in that image, not simply because we have a sexual nature.

Second, these ads promote risky sexual behavior with a false sense of security. Simply limiting the possibility of pregnancy does not make sexual activity outside of marriage safe, much less commendable. The hook-up culture of college campuses leads to a host of problems including sexually transmitted infections, pornography, emotional attachment, and potential violence. Contraceptives do not address these issues. Giving a false sense of security through free birth control pills only exacerbates the problem.

This is why God’s design for sexuality is that it should only be expressed within the context of marriage. In Hebrews 13:4 we read, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Many people may look this verse and say that the Bible is stuck in the Dark Ages. However, the reality is that God’s design for sex exclusively within marriage is the safest and most fulfilling option.

Is there a war on women? There certainly seems to be, but it is not what you may have been led to believe. The war on women is being waged by groups like ProgressNow Colorado who view women as nothing but objects of sexual desire. Instead, we need to proclaim that women find their true value in the fact that they are made in the image of God.

*I apologize for posting the content of the ads in the pictures on this blog post, but I felt it was necessary to see that they are actually real. The rest of the ads can be found at http://www.doyougotinsurance.com.

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Kurtis Lee, “Pro-Obamacare ads targeting millennials stir controversy in Colorado,” The Denver Post, November 12, 2013.

Emily Miller, “MILLER: New Obamacare ads make young women look like sluts,” The Washington Times, November 12, 2013.

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Evan Lenow

Assistant Professor of Ethics, Bobby L. and Janis Eklund Chair of Stewardship, Director of the Center for Biblical Stewardship, Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, and Chair of the Ethics Department

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