Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Wrong Debate

I don't really follow politics much. I should -- I'm one of those uninformed voters who should probably know more about seats and candidates before I hit the polls.

But you can't help but follow politics now, in a presidential election year. And here's what I'm learning: our politicians spend too much time worrying about campaigning and how their decisions while in office affect their chances of re-election.

Take, for example, the birth control debate.

President Obama recently backed a mandate that requires religious institutions to provide health insurance coverage to their employees for contraceptives. This is something the Catholic church is not happy about, and Obama's camp is being touted as "smart" for taking this stance which will activate young, female voters. Pollsters have found that voters across the board -- including Catholics -- support access to contraceptives.

Political analyst Charlie Cook put it this way: "If it's framed as a fight over contraception, President Obama wins and the church and opponents of the rule lose. If it is perceived as a fight over religious freedom, the church and rule opponents win and Obama loses."

Who loses in this discussion? We all do, but especially women. After all, the majority of contraceptives are ones targeting the female reproductive system.

Let's first talk about the reasons why women in this country may need contraceptives. Did you know that a woman taking oral contraceptives ("the pill") reduces her risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers by up to 70 percent? And some women use the pill along with a host of other prescriptions to control acne. Some pills are used to reduce the symptoms of PMS, an actual medical diagnosis that reduces the quality of life for the women suffering from it. You can read more about all the reasons not related to contraception why women may want to take the pill on this WebMD page.

Note that it's a medical website, not a political website.

But where are the medical experts in this fight for coverage for contraceptives? Nowhere. They have no voice. Or, if they are talking, they are not getting media coverage so Americans can be educated on this issue. What do our politicians know of medicine? Don't they have bigger things to worry about?

It's a shame that Obama's advisers have to recommend a course of action based on whether or not it's popular in the polls. How about making decisions based on what's the right thing to do? That gets lost in the election debate. They're talking about the right things for the wrong reasons.

It seems that the campaign trail gets longer and longer and starts earlier and earlier. Obama was only one year into his first term when I first heard political analysts discuss how his actions in office will impact his ability to be re-elected. How about what impact his actions have on the country? On our lives?

We need campaign reform. This is ridiculous.

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