Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Co-Pay for Birth Control? Not Under my Conscience Clause

Co-Pay for Birth Control?  Not Under my Conscience Clause
Blogger: Bettina Hager, NWPC Programs Director

The Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama Administration decision to provide universal coverage of birth control without co-pay deserves unrestrained applause and celebration.  Upon reflection, I do recall witnessing a moment on the day after the decision at a meeting when we cheered, applauded and celebrated.  That feeling, so distant now, was momentary and fleeting.

Almost immediately after the announcement, the backlash and public assault from the U.S. Catholic Bishops began.  The momentum quickly shifted and women’s rights advocates found themselves retreating to a defensive position.  Now it is difficult to remember that we actually won the fight.  We aren’t working to change the system or looking for support on an initiative.  We’re just hoping that we won’t be forced to take a step backward.

The facts in this case are simple.  Women are now guaranteed, under the PPACA (aka Health Care Reform), access to preventative care in the form of birth control without co-pay.  There really is very little to object to when you consider the benefits to women AND society that this new initiative creates.

It is extremely costly both to women’s lives and society’s resources to care for unplanned or unexpected pregnancies.  It is also unreasonable to expect that in times of financial destitution and struggle, such as we experience today, that all woman have access to the $600/ year that it currently costs to cover birth control. 

In essence, prior to this landmark decision, many women could not afford protection from unexpected pregnancy.  And unwanted pregnancies will continue to require--in one way or another-- resources that are just not there, possibly for another 18 years of life.  The resources won’t magically appear; the expenses won’t go away, and on and on.  This is called a cycle, and a vicious one at that.

Summing up the facts I’ve just presented, providing women with access to birth control allows them to have control over their body and their life.  It reduces unnecessary costs to be taken up by society.  Then why, you might wonder, are Catholic Bishops so upset?  Control.  Birth control gives women control and takes it away from such authority figures.

Claiming moral superiority on the basis of religious doctrine is by no means a new tactic.  Objecting to other peoples’ lives because they offend one’s personal “conscience” is not novel.  In government, however, it has no place.  This Nation was born on the principle of separation of church and state.  It is generous of the government to listen to these outcries, but really it should be only out of an attempt to placate.

Especially pertinent is that these views represent a minority objection.  The Catholic Bishops assert that institutions that are religiously affiliated should be exempt from providing birth control without co-pay to its employees, whom I’d guess aren’t all Catholic.  Even if they are, it’s statistically been shown that 90% of Catholic women use birth control.  Whose conscience are we protecting while infringing on these women’s rights?

The tactics aren’t new, they aren’t even clever.  Behind the fog of righteousness has always laid an ambition to control.  Women don’t have to stand for it and we shouldn’t allow a club of men to bully some of life’s most important decisions.  My conscience just won’t allow it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fight Against the Catholic Attack on Preventative Healthcare for Women

Guest Blogger: Mallen Urso
After reading the countless responses and op-eds in opposition to the recent HHS and Obama Administration ruling on birth control, I can’t help but wonder: Why are Catholic Bishops so hell-bent on being in bed with women’s reproductive health decisions?

Under The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employer insurance plans are required to fully cover contraception for women.   With this mandate, women are now guaranteed control over their bodies.   This will lead to fewer unintended pregnancies, fewer abortions, and fewer painful decisions for women.  Total win, right?  Well, if it were up to a small, yet powerful, group of men adorned in long, white robes, it would not be for everyone.
Catholic churches across the country are outraged about the new mandate that requires all employers, including faith-based, to include birth control and other reproductive services in their health care coverage.  To be clear, Catholic institutions are NOT required to fund abortions under this mandate.  Moreover, if a company’s mission is primarily religious and the majority of their employees and clients share that faith; religious institutions do NOT have to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.  This mandate respects religion, but also keeps it rightfully out of public policy.   As said by Senator Barbara Boxer, “The truth is, the president's decision respects the diverse religious views of the American people, who deserve the right to follow their own conscience and choose whether to obtain contraceptives, regardless of where they work.”   
We must consider the women who work for faith-associated organizations but do not necessarily share in that faith.   Why should these women be penalized?   Virtually all women have used birth control at some point in their life (including over 90% of Catholic women).  The reality is that these women are most likely using birth control and would be denied of their right to preventative healthcare simply because of their place of employment.  Let’s not forget-this mandate isn’t only for contraception.  It provides necessary preventative healthcare on all levels, including annual exams and HIV screenings.  What’s more, Catholic Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, is imposing this ruling with the full support of Catholic vice president, Joe Biden.  Clearly, not all Catholics are appalled by this ruling.  In today’s society, we simply can’t turn a blind on to the needs of our people in the name of religious ideals.      
Birth control can cost up to $600/year.  Have we forgotten about those women and families that are struggling just to pay their bills from month-to-month?   Realistically, they do not have the spare $600 to protect themselves from unintended pregnancies.  In fact, one third of all women voters report struggling to pay for their birth control.   Not providing contraception leads to greater issues and larger costs.  Why not handle this preventatively—make birth control accessible!
From Arizona to Maine to New Orleans, Catholic Church leaders are urging their parishes to fight this “violation of their rights.”  They are demanding exemption for businesses owned by religious interests, such as hospitals, universities, insurance companies, and social service agencies.  They fail to see the importance and necessity of this mandate.  We are a country based on religious freedom and separation of church and state.  Let’s not further marginalize women by letting a widely unpracticed religious ideal subject woman to unintended pregnancy and severe health risks.