I recently read about a bill being introduced to Congress by Diane DeGette, D-Colo. The bill in part read, "Every woman has a right to affordable contraception, and President's Trump's ongoing efforts to rip this essential aspect of health care from millions is incredibly dangerous. A woman's ability to access affordable birth control should not be subject to an objection from her boss, school or insurance company."
I was so stunned, my mouth was hanging open. I couldn't believe it.
With this bill, we force businesses to provide free contraception, to those seeking to obtain it. This sounds crazy. Free contraception does not strike me as being a right.
Regarding contraception, I remember telling one of my sons, "If you are mature enough to have sex, then you are mature enough to take that young lady to Planned Parenthood and arrange for birth control. Do it! And you sir, shall pay for that."
Please don't tell me that I am a lousy parent. He was 18. And if you are mad about me using Planned Parenthood as an example - criticize me in the comments online.
My point is sexual activity should include taking ownership. Safe sex and purchasing your birth control are just the beginning of that responsibility. We need to allow people the dignity of taking care of their sexual health without interference. Government oversight in sexual activity is an affront to our rights.
As a woman of color, I take rights seriously. Due process, voting, and free speech - these rights are the cornerstone of our democratic republic. Most nations have rights to tell what is allowed of people (or owed to people) within its legal, social and moral systems. When a country does not allow its people's rights, we decry the lack of rights as tyranny.
Admit it. Birth control is not a right it is a benefit. In the language of the workplace that is its designation. Businesses offer benefits as an incentive for employees to join their workforce. Generally, benefits are given voluntarily.
I understand the importance of birth control. Access to effective family planning is a necessity for the upwardly mobile. But to force businesses to provide free or even low cost birth control to their workers - against their will - smacks of entitlement.
Like many, Rep. DeGette has confused rights with entitlement. Entitlement and rights are similar. Both are about owing someone. But that is where the similarity ends.
With a right, we use our existing rules to establish a national consensus. Delivering the right brings some kind of benefit and increased freedom. Voting rights for women exemplifies that.
With entitlement, there's no agreement. Congress or the executive branch ignore the will of the American people to force the creation of what they want. Existing rules are bypassed or twisted to benefit a special interest group or lawmakers. Delivering the entitlement undermines the freedom.
The person receiving entitlement trades their freedom to benefit. The receiver lives in fear of the entitlement being taken away. They may feel that they have to vote for whichever party gave them the entitlement. And they lose the growth that comes with complete ownership of their choices.
Meanwhile, the business owner or taxpayer resents the government and recipient of the entitlement. Their money has been taken by force. They hate the party that forced them to fund the entitlement. Their resentment is toxic and shows up in their voting choices.
Those thoughts are about entitlement in general. In the specific case of birth control, power needs to go the people not the lawmakers, or bosses at work. As a consumer, all choices surrounding birth control belong to the individual. The individual uses their resources to get what they need. Businesses and taxpayers use their rights and resources to get what they choose as well. As long as no one thinks that they are entitled to take by force from others, it goes well.
This is a case of rights vs. entitlement.
So, in the case of birth control, we need to tell our representatives which one we want.
Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Rachel is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.