A bill that could potentially allow state employers to deny their employees health insurance coverage of contraception and abortion services has been passed overwhelmingly by an Oklahoma Senate committee.
The measure's 9-0 approval by the Senate Business and Commerce Committee Thursday and the specific attack on birth control show just how radical and extremist the Oklahoma Legislature has become. Supporting efforts to make prescribed contraception less available is yet another dangerous precedent in the continuing conservative war against women and their reproductive health here.
Senate Bill 452, sponsored by Clark Jolley, an Edmond Republican, is a simple, one-page bill that states:
Notwithstanding any other provision of state or federal law, no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees.
Of course, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does require coverage of birth control unless the employer is a religious organization, and that makes it unclear just how much impact the bill would have, if signed into law. Still, if the ACA were ever repealed or reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the religious fundamentalists might prevail. Oklahoma already has a law that disallows insurance coverage for most abortion cases.
Let's be clear: The bill would codify into law basic job and gender discrimination.
One has to wonder how many of Jolley's Edmond constituents are currently using some form of prescribed contraception. His district includes the University of Central Oklahoma. That question becomes even more important considering that Jolley credits one of his constituents, Dr. Dominic Pedulla, a physician, as the inspiration for the legislation.
Pedulla basically claims birth control is bad for women, according to the Tulsa World. Okay, that's what Pedulla thinks, but what about all the women in Edmond who use prescribed contraception? Don't they get a say? I guess they don't matter to Jolley, who was recently re-elected.
This is how The World quotes Pedulla:
Part of their [women's] identity is the potential to be a mother. They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity, and if that wasn't bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies.
How does allowing access to birth control translate into women "being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity?" Who exactly is doing the asking? How are women being asked to "poison" their bodies? Who exactly is asking them to do that? Poison?
It should be noted that "The Pill," which became legal in the U.S. in 1960, has been proven to be one of the safest drugs in world history (if not, then why haven't we discovered its major medical problems yet?), and it's often used to treat some medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome.
Pedulla is described as an Oklahoma City cardiologist and a women's health researcher in The World story, a physician morally opposed to contraception and abortion, but Internet documents readily available in a basic, cursory search fill out his background a bit more.
Pedulla is president and chief physician of The Oklahoma Vein & Endovascular Center in Oklahoma City, which specializes in removing varicose veins. He is the founder of the Edith Stein Foundation. Its mission statement: "To advocate the dignity of women through fostering a non-contraceptive culture." This is from Pedulla's profile on the foundation's site: "A devoted husband, Dr. Pedulla is the father of nine children. Fittingly, his favorite saint is St. Joseph." All of Pedulla's children "received a home schooling education from their father," who is described as a "devout Catholic," according to one site.
The point here is that Pedulla's efforts to make birth control less accessible to Oklahoma women seem simply an extension of his scandal-plagued Catholic Church's archaic and universally ignored teachings on contraception, not the result of any credible science or medical research.
Two Democrats, Sen. Jerry Ellis of Valiant and Sen. Earl Garrison of Muskogee, joined with seven Republicans to pass SB 452. All those voting to approve the bill, just like Jolley and Pedulla, are men. The full Senate could now consider the legislation.