Reclaim the language

I didn’t think the rhetoric coming from those in favor of the HHS contraception mandate could get any more ridiculous, but indeed it has. The language, whether it was stated boldly on television, in print or online in countless blogs, tweets and Facebook posts, went so far from reality at one point I expected Rod Serling to pop up and tell us we had really and truly entered “The Twilight Zone.” It’s another universe all right — void of fact and filled with and fueled by fictitious scenarios designed to promote confusion, fear and hate. It’s another strong reminder of why we need to reclaim the language being used in this issue.

Purchasing contraception and getting prescriptions for contraceptive drugs and devices is still perfectly legal. Hobby Lobby and other plaintiffs did not demand that CVS and Walgreens remove the items from their store shelves. Nor did they demand doctors stop prescribing birth control. The plaintiffs just did not want to pay for something that violated their beliefs. Never mind that, in the case of Hobby Lobby, the company was already covering the costs of 16 different types of contraceptives for its employees. The craft store chain filed a suit because they didn’t want to cover abortifacient drugs in their company health care plans. In the end, that meant only four of the 20 drugs that are supposed to be covered under the new health care law were eliminated in the Hobby Lobby plan.

Those are just a few of the facts. But that is not how the Supreme Court decision was described by those in favor of the mandate. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, said on MSNBC that the Supreme Court ruling was going to “turn the dial back.” She accused conservatives of using the long arm of the government and now the “long hand of business” to “reach into a woman’s body and make health care decisions for her.” Really? So it is OK for an employer to make a decision to pay for items certain folks want covered? Then, and only then, can companies and the government reach as far as they want and swing those long arms anywhere and any way they choose.

Another lawmaker said the decision “jeopardized basic health care coverage and contraception access for a countless number of women.” Since when is birth control “health care?” Particularly when you consider the connection between the birth control pill and increased cancer risks. This is the same drug that was labeled a Group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization several years ago, and yet those not wanting to pay for birth control are the ones waging the “war on women.” And need we remind those attacking the decision that, again, contraception is still readily available?

But wait, there is more. In addition to NOW claiming on its website that the Hobby Lobby win was decided by an “activist court that sided with anti-woman forces,” the group is also calling for Americans to “ditch the Dirty 100.” The “Dirty 100” is a list of HHS mandate plaintiffs who, according to NOW, are “using religion” to discriminate against women. The Little Sisters of the Poor are on that list. Yes, the same hard-working, holy women who dedicate their lives to caring for people from all different faiths and backgrounds are being accused by women of discriminating against women. My head is spinning.

English novelist George Orwell said something regarding the language often used in politics, a statement so very apropos for today. Political language, he said, is “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Welcome to our culture.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.