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April 21, 2014 11:47 AM Remedial Education On Birth Control

By Ed Kilgore

You’d really think that an institution with as rich an intellectual history and educational capacity as the Roman Catholic Church could find ways to keep its national spokespeople from saying things as dumb as this:

Is the ability to buy contraceptives, that are now widely available — my Lord, all you have to do is walk into a 7-11 or any shop on any street in America and have access to them — is that right to access those and have them paid for, is that such a towering good that it would suffocate the rights of conscience?

That would be Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, on Face the Nation yesterday. It was Dolan who, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2010 until 2013, guided the bishops into a firm alliance with conservative evangelicals (and implicitly, with the Republican Party) in a crusade for “religious liberty” defined as the right of employers to refuse their employees insurance coverage for contraceptives—typically those they regard, in defiance of standard medical profession and scientific definitions, as “abortifacients.”

Dolan’s dismissive comments about contraceptives and 7-11’s are reminiscent of those of conservative Catholic layperson Justice Antonin Scalia, who said this during oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case:

You’re talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient. That’s not terribly expensive stuff, is it?

Well, yes, IUDs, the real crux of the “abortifacient” argument being made by Hobby Lobby’s lawyers, are quite expensive, and you cannot simply acquire them by strolling into a convenience store.

Arrogance and ignorance often go together, but you’d figure men as accomplished as Dolan and Scalia would have the wherewithal to avoid sounding like yahoos. Men—especially celibate men like Dolan—should go to the trouble of becoming at least marginally expert on reproductive science and economics before devoting so much of their time and attention to denying women reproductive rights.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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