The pictures were not good. A bunch of dark suited clerics — men — talking about contraception and religious freedom. This was the picture from last week’s now infamous hearing by the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform led by Rep. Darrell Issa. It wasn’t that committee member Rep. Justin Amash didn’t try to help. He had brought along Dr. Laura Champion, Medical Director of Health Services at Calvin College, but she spoke in a second panel, roundly ignored by the media.
Of course, it was not mystery why a Republican hearing would welcome testimony from Dr. Champion; she provided relief from the cultural war frame that was developing around the issue. After all with the Republicans being vilified for their male perspective, the prospect of woman testifying, if even at the last minute, could mitigate the perception. She was a doctor who could frame contraception away from church dictates, whose work in student health services provided a convenient change of focus from the employment rights frame, plus she was from one of the leading evangelical colleges in the country, a brand name. What’s not to like?
In her testimony the Committee got what it needed. Dr. Champion first addressed contraception issues distinguishing between ready support of birth control pills and the rejection of the abortifacient nature of post-coital contraception (Plan B and ella) — a distinction that neither pro-life advocates or medical science support. And then she moved on to an assertion of religious liberty and of opposition to the Administration largely mirroring conventional conservative points.
If Committee got what the window dressing it wanted, it is less clear what was in it for the Calvin.