Here we go again. Since we don’t have real problems, or as we prefer to call them, “issues,” to address as a country, we’re having yet another fight to the death over contraception and abortion. Opposition to Obamacare, an unwieldy, unworkable monstrosity, has crystallized around one of its least deleterious provisions, the requirement that healthcare providers serving the public provide abortion and contraceptives when medically indicated and requested by their patients. There’s sporadic, ineffectual dissent at most over Obamacare being a Rube Goldberg contraption from hell, but because the Catholic hive mind picked up on the abortion angle and, of course, the sex angle, everyone’s worked up into a lather over this tempest in a teapot that is allegedly about religious freedom.

Religious freedom isn’t the central issue here. Catholic hospitals and clinics are medical facilities first, religious institutions second. The provisions that have prompted all the mouth-frothing about infringements of religious liberty and conscience have strictly to do with the regulation of medical facilities and care; the pro-life activists are in a righteous snit because the new law aims to apply the regulations in question across the board without favor to specific religious organizations, so the activists are clearly not taking a stand on behalf of equity before the law.

Archbishop Dolan has compared the Catholic Church’s request for an exemption to the exemption of the Amish from Social Security and Medicare, among other codified religious exemptions, and he has a legitimate point. The balance of the Church’s First Amendment rights as a religious institution against the right of individuals to receive equitable medical care is at stake, and the competing claims should be adjudicated with great thoughtfulness.

At the same time, the manner in which this relatively tiny portion of Obamacare blew up as a national scandal while other serious problems with the legislation have been practically ignored indicates a potentially fatal dysfunction in American politics. It’s a bad sign that we’re yelling at each other about sex and unborn babies again. I say that as someone who is uncomfortable with abortion but considers it a necessary evil, but first and foremost as a citizen who doesn’t want his country to disintegrate while hotheads yell at each other about wedge issues that have no real bearing on its governance.

The Obamacare donnybrook isn’t the only current blowup over sex and babies. We’re also dealing with the nonsense about Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a charity that proposes to cure cancer by staging walking events and painting pink ribbons all over hell, cutting off grant eligibility for Planned Parenthood, then restoring it not 24 hours later. All parties to the controversy–Komen, Planned Parenthood, the pro-choice movement and the pro-life movement–have made asses of themselves, in Komen’s case monumentally so.

And that’s the silver lining. Komen for the Cure has a Denny’s Grand Slam helping of egg on its face, and rightly so. This is a nonprofit organization that has for years gotten a free pass from the news media and secured high-profile partnerships with major corporations because no one wants to be the insensitive bastard who says an ill word about breast cancer research. Telling Komen to ask someone else for money would be an affront to womanhood; only an abrasive asshat would be so misogynistic. That’s why as a country we suffered a rising tide of pink ribbon bromides and let a rather self-important feel-good organization go unchallenged when it presented itself as the vanguard of breast cancer research. One might think that an organization comporting itself in that manner has, say, above-average overhead costs, but no one dared ask.

I reckon they’ll be asking now. Komen’s romance with the pro-life movement lasted about as long as a Britney Spears marriage; in the aftermath of that barely consummated love-in the movement now regards Komen approximately as it regarded John Kerry in 2004. The left, for its part, distrusts Komen as an organization that has to be backed into a corner when it’s caught being petty because it won’t behave maturely otherwise.

There is a veritable host of journalists whose mission, stated or unstated, is to rake their political adversaries over the coals. The left-leaning of these can certainly be expected to go over Komen’s records with a fine-tooth comb looking for evidence of naughtiness now that pink ribbons aren’t so hip in their circles. Komen may well emerge from the inquisition looking like a featherbedding racket. It’s already looking like a party to political intrigue in which a charity of its kind has no business engaging.

Planned Parenthood, for its part, has so far come out of the storm stronger and more highly regarded than before. This is a good thing; unlike Komen for the Cure, Planned Parenthood actually provides cancer screening, along with a wide spectrum of other primary care, often to patients who can’t afford treatment elsewhere. PP is probably the foremost provider of reproductive healthcare in the United States. In some places, it’s the only provider that isn’t in a constant snit over some moral panic. This is good for patients who are looking for standard medical care rather than a lecture from a frothing blowhard.

This isn’t to say that the pro-life movement won’t continue to portray PP as a baby-murdering death machine that hates women. This is a patently libelous accusation, but accuracy and honesty aren’t the real goals in the culture wars. The goal is to gain ground at any cost.

As they say, all is fair in love and war. Just ask Stephanie Lazarus or the US Army.

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