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.