This morning I was thinking about the recent controversy over the Obama administration’s proposed mandate requiring employer-provided health insurance to cover contraception. It brought to mind this passage from King Asoka’s famous Thirteenth Rock Edict.

Indeed, King Asoka is deeply pained by the killing, dying, and deportation that take place when an unconquered country is conquered. But King Asoka is pained even more by this—that the brahmans, ascetics, and householders of different religions living in those countries who are respectful to their superiors, to their mother and father, and to their elders; who behave properly; and who  have strong loyalty towards their friends, acquaintances, companions, relatives, servants, and employees—that they are injured, killed or separated from their loved ones. Even those who are not affected by all this suffer when they see their friends, acquaintances, companions, and relatives affected. These misfortunes befall everyone as a result of war, and this pains King Asoka.

Asoka’s point is that war doesn’t just hurt those who are directly affected, but everyone who cares about them—their friends, their family, their loved ones, their neighbors, their coworkers. And, of course, hurting these people also hurts everyone who cares for them. The suffering moves out in ever-widening circles, like endless ripples on a pond.

The same is true for the war on women. My mom raised me on her own while working low-paying, pink-collar jobs. Being a man never kept my mom’s pay cuts from coming out of my mouth or her tears from welling up in my eyes. Similarly, a lot of women I care about have had medical conditions for which hormonal contraception is the only effective treatment. Being a man’s never made it any easier to watch them suffer.

When we wage a war on women, these misfortunes befall everyone. As men, that ought to pain us.

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