THE STATE of the Union — On Hormones

February 9, 2012 • Posted in Blog

By D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A.

A few days ago, I received an unsolicited e-mail from “Stephanie Cutter, BarackObama.com” <info@barackobama.com>.  It read in part,

Here’s some big news that’s going to affect millions of women.


On Friday, the Obama administration announced that soon women won’t have to pay out of pocket for birth control: Starting August 1st, many insurance plans nationwide will be required to fully cover contraception without co-pays or deductibles. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more women can make health care decisions based on what’s best for them — not their insurance company — all while saving hundreds of dollars every year.
Think about how different that is from what the candidates on the other side would do. They’ve all vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Mitt Romney even said he would have signed a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts to define life as beginning at conception, similar to the notorious state-level ‘personhood’ amendment that could ban many forms of contraception, and even IVF. . . .


I wish to be clear: contraception is not a new subject to me, as a physician married to an obstetrician/gynecologist, or as a woman.  What is new is the involvement of the state to such a degree.

Consider that in 1965, the United States Supreme Court heard a case against contraception.  That was the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, in which Griswold, the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Dr. Buxton, a Yale Medical School professor as well as New Haven’s Planned Parenthood Medical Director, brought suit against the state of Connecticut.  Griswold and Buxton contested the constitutionality of the Connecticut law under which they were arrested and fined for assisting married couples in preventing conception.  In that decision, they questioned

Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The . . . very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.

In that decision, in which the Connecticut law was struck down, the Court had this to say about marriage:

We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights — older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.

Almost 47 years later, we find a different landscape.  Now, not only is the “state” — in this case, the United States — allowing sale and use of contraceptives, the citizenry is being told they must provide it free for all women who desire to use it.  In 1965, it was anathema (to the Court) that the government should police bedrooms for evidence of the use of contraceptives; in 2012, it seems anathema to the federal government that persons of conscience would not wish to provide and/or pay for others’ use of contraceptives.  “Contraceptives” are broadly defined, and include abortifacients in some cases.  Indeed, religious institutions which object to contraceptive use have one more year to figure out how to divest themselves of their consciences, and comply with the federal requirement.  Some refer to this a “the rape of conscience.”  I cannot disagree.  On what basis can a government insist that private organizations and citizens provide hormonal treatments to its citizenry?  Such a strong centralized state is itself a state on hormones; in this case, steroids: “THE STATE.”  Such provision for its people is really the STATE’s iron hand in its “Nanny” glove.