In 1968, there was an advertising campaign targeted at women with the slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” This particular ad was for cigarettes, but the implication was more widespread – that women were moving forward in their liberation from a male dominated world that dictated what they could and could not do.
In 1972 when I was 19-years-old, I went to the University of Texas at Austin health center so I could get a prescription for birth control pills. The Supreme Court had recently ruled in Baird v. Eisenstadt that birth control was legal for all citizens in the United States, regardless of marital status, and I, being a responsible (if not naïve) young woman, decided that it was a good and solid decision to take oral contraceptives so that I would not find myself with an unwanted pregnancy.
In the clinic, I was guided to an examination room and told by the nurse to take off my clothes and put on a gown. I was nervous since this was my first gynecological exam. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I felt safe because I was, after all, at the University health clinic where the doctors saw young women all day long. I lay in the examination room with my feet up in the stirrups. I felt shy about the situation, but I knew I was doing the right thing to be proactive in my decision not to bring a baby into the world at a time when I was definitely not mature enough to handle one.
The doctor, an older man, came in and gave me my examination. I felt awkward about a man examining me, but accepted this as the status quo. There were not that many women doctors at that time. When he was done, he looked at me as I lay there with my feet still in the stirrups and said, “So you want birth control?”
“Yes, sir,” I said. “I definitely don’t want to get pregnant –”
“Well, if that’s the case,” he interrupted, “then why don’t you just put an aspirin between your knees and keep it there until you get married?”
My face grew hot and I was speechless. This was the last response I expected from a health care professional on a progressive university campus. I sat up and covered my self with the gown. “I would like a prescription for birth control pills, please.”
He shook his head as if he was deeply disappointed in me and pulled out his prescription pad. “If that’s what you really want to do…”
That was 1972
This is 2014.
Forty-two years later and women are still having to fight to get basic birth control.
Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court makes women the losers.
As Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in her dissent of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.”
When did we become a country where a corporation can impose its religious beliefs on its employees?
Bader Ginsberg also pointed out, “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”
A month’s full-time pay to protect the world from unwanted babies? Where is the justice there?
I am appalled by the Supreme Court’s ruling today; I am stunned that we, as a nation, have not moved past these basic inequities.
We need to recognize that unwanted pregnancies lead to unwanted babies who often become the real victims in this scenario. Not to mention their mothers, whose punishment for wanting to have a normal sex life is a pregnancy that was unplanned and often unwanted.
Women again find themselves victimized by those in power who believe they know best.
The Supreme Court effectively told the women who are employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga to do just what that doctor said to me at 19: Be a virgin until you get married and then get comfortable producing child after child as your reward for wanting to have sex.
Shame on the Supreme Court.
We have not come a long way, baby. No, not at all.