Cynical about the contraception mandate debate

I swear I don’t intend for this to become a “religion and politics” blog (it’s meant to cover a wider range of interests); it just happens that my “random thoughts about religion in America” have been moving lately in a political vein.

Last week, the student newspaper at the campus where I teach ran a story about the contraception mandate in which I was quoted pretty prominently. (Translation: Most other faculty had taken off for the summer, and I feel a strong need to be heard every chance I get, so I was both available to talk to the student reporter and happy to do so. It’s not that I’m a media whore–I’m not being paid enough to call it that. I’m a media slut. Important distinction.)

So here are some of my gems of wisdom. Basically, I tried to be equal-opportunity cynical about the rhetoric each side’s been using. Note: The student let me fact-check the quotes before they appeared; but she wouldn’t make any stylistic changes, and she transcribed very literally from her tape recorder. The results are a little painful. The last quotation (which is what the reporter ended the story with) is my best, I think.

“Conservatives are going to cast this as ‘the Obama administration is making an assault on religious freedom,’” Duffy said. “Liberals will cast it as ‘conservatives are waging a war on women.’ It’s framing the issue in those inflamed terms for the issue of rallying their respective bases.”

“I think for the Catholic bishops this has become an occasion to send a message to American Catholics,” Duffy said. “American Catholics are notorious for ignoring the Church’s ban on birth control … it’s an effort on behalf of the Catholic bishops to reinforce the Church’s teachings to a laity that is not convinced that those teachings are all that important.”

According to Duffy, the contraceptive mandate is not a new concept.

“What some journalists have been pointing out is the fact that mandates like the one that the Obama administration had originally wanted or like the compromise that is now being proposed are already in place in many states and have been supported by Republicans in the past,” Duffy said. “Republicans are now lining up against the Obama contraceptive mandate because of course, it’s Obama, so it becomes a useful political tool in the election.”

“This is political theater,” Duffy said. “This issue that could have been discussed and has been discussed in the past in calmer ways is being inflamed at a particular moment for the purposes of the 2012 election, and I think it would behoove everyone to be a little bit cynical about this debate for that reason.”

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