This Week’s Attack on Women: Deny Contraceptives! Take Action!!

by Carolyn J. Jacobson, Director, Cervical Cancer Prevention Works, Coalition of Labor Union Women,  and Carol S. Rosenblatt, Executive Director, Coalition of Labor Union Women,

A few weeks ago we celebrated President Obama’s decision to implement a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires health plans to cover preventive services including contraceptives without copayments or deductibles. This is a significant victory and can save women $600 or more a year on contraceptives alone — a great help at a time of economic hardship for so many.

Immediately the backlash started: The Conference of Catholic Bishops want to deny workers in Catholic hospitals, social service agencies, etc. the right to birth control devices and contraceptives that they are entitled to under this law. Currently there is a religious exemption that applies primarily to houses of worship but they want this exemption expanded and are pressuring the Obama administration to make the change.

Polls released this week indicate that a majority of Catholics believe that employers should provide health care plans that cover contraception.

No one is demanding that women who work for Catholic institutions like a hospital be required to consume birth control pills. They should be able to make that decision for themselves without the interference of an employer or denied that right based on where they work.

Furthermore, no labor union would tolerate an employer dictating what can be bargained about. A union and the workers they represent should make that decision for the good of the workers.  It would not be tolerated for any other issue. Why is it okay when it comes to this? Are women so expendable?

CLUW President Karen See notes, “Our opponents are trying to equate contraception with abortion, which it is not! CLUW has a long-standing position on supporting the basic health needs of women; reproductive health is no exception.”

CLUW is proud of our support for contraceptive equity that dates back to 1997 and for creating our Contraceptive Equity Project in 2001. We recognized the discrimination in many health plans — denying contraceptives at the same time that 90% of plans covered Viagra — and we vowed to change that.

Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday committed to fight the new contraceptive rules if the administration does not make changes and are accusing President Obama of being hostile to religious freedom. Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill that would block the rules from taking effect.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said she is ready to fight back against Senate Republicans’ legislation. “My Republican friends are attempting to turn back the clock on birth control,” she said.

In her Daily Beast column, Michelle Goldberg sums it up perfectly:

And make no mistake: health plans that exclude services used only by women constitute a form of discrimination. That’s why in 2000, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that employers that cover prescription drugs but do not cover contraception are in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

CLUW needs its eActivists to do two actions:

SIGN THE WHITE HOUSE PETITION: Stand Strong in Support of New No-Cost Birth Control Policy. It’s up to pro-choice Americans to speak up for birth-control coverage. Sign your name to let the administration know that you are with them 100 percent.

TELL THE SENATE THAT YOU OPPOSE S.2043. Go to the CLUW homepage and fill out the simple box provided.


Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.


Select Media Coverage: Catholics Supporting Contraceptive Coverage Under the ACA

Compiled by Catholics for Choice

Washington Post, New York Times, Concord Monitor, Meet the Press, CNN, local papers coast-to-coast


Washington Post

5 February 2012

To the editor:

Michael Gerson imputed nefarious motives to President Obama for his administration’s requirement that contraception be made more affordable and available for American workers. He lamented the decision’s effects on a bishop, a priest and the vice president. Tellingly missing from this analysis: the profound and beneficial effects on the millions of American women and their families, Catholic and non-Catholic, Democrat, Republican and independent, whose health-care decisions are too often thwarted by a small, powerful cadre of men who have zero credibility with many lay Catholics when it comes to contraception. Churches across the country are filled with good Catholics, the majority of whom use contraception and have no objection to it.

Jon O’Brien, Washington
The writer is president of Catholics for Choice.

Jon is writing in response to an article by Post opinion columnist, Michael Gerson, available at


New York Times

The Church and the Birth Control Ruling

5 February 2012

To the Editor:

Traditional Catholic teaching rests on a tripod, including the hierarchy, the theologians and the sensus fidelium, the experience-fed wisdom of the laity. These three sources of teaching are, as Cardinal Avery Dulles said, “complementary and mutually corrective.” An accurate look at Catholic teaching on contraception today shows strong support for the position that contraception is not only permissible but even mandatory in many cases.

The American bishops are at odds with other bishops in the Catholic world, with the vast majority of Catholic theologians and with 98 percent of the Catholic laity who have used contraceptives. They are even at odds with Pope Benedict XVI, who has approved the use of condoms “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection.” That concession logically ended the taboo on condoms since it said health care concerns can require the use of condoms.

The bishops’ claim that their religious freedom is threatened is bogus. The threat is to the religious freedom of their employees and to the conscientious freedom of the diverse public they serve in their tax-supported institutions.

Milwaukee, Jan. 30, 2012

The writer is a professor of theology at Marquette University.


Concord (NH) Monitor

5 February 2012


Bishop is wrong on health rules

This is a big step forward for women

By Rep. Candace Bouchard / For the Monitor

February 4, 2012

Re “Health rules violate our religious rights” (Bishop Peter Libasci, Monitor Forum, Feb. 2):

As a Catholic, I was dismayed to read the bishop’s column opposing the new rule giving women access to reproductive health services without a co-pay. The fact is, contraception is used by a majority of women. According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception.

And here are some important facts about the law: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception, and no individual health-care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception. For example, no Catholic doctor is forced to write a prescription for contraception.

President Obama has made great strides in women’s heath from stopping insurance companies from discriminating based on gender to making sure women can get access to mammograms and other preventative services, and he has stood up to Republican attacks on reproductive health.

The Catholic bishops need to understand religious freedom is an expansive rather than restrictive idea. It has two sides, freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

It is not about telling people what they can and cannot believe or practice, but rather about respecting an individual’s right to follow his or her own conscience in religious beliefs and practices, as well as in moral decision-making. The protections we put in place to preserve religious freedom do not – and should not be considered to – permit religious institutions or individuals to obstruct or coerce the exercise of another’s conscience.

Religious institutions like Catholic hospitals and charities are woven into the social contract by virtue of their activities as charitable organizations and service providers, as well as by the tax benefits and other public funds they receive. Religious institutions like Catholic hospitals should play by the rules of society at large, rather than requiring all of society to play by their rules.

This rule is a reasonable step to make sure women have access to the health services they need, and I am disappointed that the bishop does not understand this.

Representative Bouchard works with Catholics for Choice through the Catholics in Public Life project.


NBC’s Meet the Press

5 February 2012

Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA), a Catholic, supports contraceptive coverage in employer insurance plans at Catholic hospitals and universities.



CNN’s State of the Union

5 February 2012

Governor Martin O’Malley (MD), a Catholic, supports contraceptive coverage, disputes overreaching in the media stories on Catholic reaction.


Letters from Catholics in support of contraceptive coverage under the ACA, and using CFC’s messaging advice, are also appearing in local papers from Alaska to Iowa to Ohio to New Jersey, and in college newspapers, including at Notre Dame University.

In addition to earned media coverage on this issue in the Washington Post and New York Times, CFC has recently been quoted by the Associated Press and in the Nation; in newspapers in California (LA Times), Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Washington, DC; on television in Dallas; in online media at Huffington Post, CNN, USA Today, Media Matters for America, RH Reality Check, Religion Dispatches, and blogs by our colleagues like Americans United for Church and State; and featured on local and syndicated radio programs. You can find more information on our website at

Maryland Women Have a Right to Birth Control

by Leni Preston, Chair of Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care

In the article posted on January 25th in the Baltimore Sun by Andrea Walker and Meredith Cohn, Catholic Services among others was cited for their “strenuous objections” to the Obama administration’s confirmation that health insurance plans must include contraception among the preventive services covered for women without additional deductibles or co-pays under the new health care law.  It is important to point out that this builds on similar contraceptive coverage laws already in place in 28 states, including Maryland. This is great news for young women who, starting this fall won’t have to pay out of their pockets for contraception every month! But some have disagreed with the administration’s decision not to further expand an exception that was created for religious employers (like churches)  to also exempt a broader set of other employers (like colleges and hospitals) that are “affiliated” with a religion that opposes contraception.  These religiously affiliated employers will have an extra year to change the coverage policies to meet the requirement.

Concern about employers whose principles would be offended by having to provide such coverage ignores the principles of the many thousands of Marylanders plus their dependents, who need this coverage but could not get it if the exception had been expanded. Further, much evidence demonstrates that, in practice, employers would not really be paying more for this coverage, since their premiums would likely not change, or could even decrease, when contraceptive coverage is included.

Birth control use is nearly universal among women of child-bearing age, including Catholic women. No Catholic doctor or hospital would have to provide contraception, rather as an employer would have to provide health insurance that allows women employees and families to get it under their plan if they choose – just as employees can spend their paycheck as they choose.  The decision that all plans must provide preventive services, including contraception is the right one – as a matter of public health, respect for individual conscience and simple fairness to Maryland women and their families.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Why VAWA is a Queer Issue

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), by Terra Slavin, L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and Sharon Stapel, New York City Anti-Violence Project

Having lived through the controlling behavior, the physical violence, the fear of what would happen next and the terror of being in danger, Davis did what it takes many victims of domestic violence years to do – he left.  But Davis’ partner found him and threatened to kill him.  Davis had nowhere else to go after having exhausted his only safe, and now found out, place – so he did what thousands of victims of domestic violence do:  look for safe and confidential shelter.  For the most part Davis was rejected from domestic violence shelters because he was a man.  Occasionally he could stay in a domestic violence shelter for a night or two, and once he stayed in the administrative offices of a homeless shelter because he was too traumatized by the violence he experienced to be safe in the shelter itself.  But most often Davis was turned away from shelter as he sought safety.  He had to travel all the way across the country to find a safe place to stay.

Domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking are serious crimes and all victims deserve access to life-saving services.  The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), first authorized in 1994, is at the core of our nation’s response to these insidious and pervasive crimes and creates and supports comprehensive, effective and cost saving responses.   The current bipartisan bill (S. 1925) introduced by Senators Leahy and Crapo clarifies that VAWA protections and services include LGBTQ people.  LGBTQ people experience violence at the same rates as any other community:  25-35% of relationships.

However, LGBTQ victims receive fewer supportive services – and are often actively discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  Davis’ story is not unusual:  a 2011 survey of NCAVP coalition members and affiliates found that nearly 85% of survey participants responded that they had worked with an LGBTQ client/survivor of domestic and intimate partner violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking who reported that they were turned away or denied services (such as shelter, crisis intervention, police or legal response) because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

We have made much progress in recognizing, responding to and creating social and legal remedies necessary to address domestic violence in the U.S. through the Violence Against Women Act.  But have we done enough for LGBTQ people? In a report recently released by the National Coalition of Domestic Violence Programs, in 2009 we saw a 15% increase in reports of domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships across the country.   We’ve seen a 50% increase in domestic violence-related murders from 2007 to 2009.  Young adults make up a third of the reports of violence in their relationships.

Over the past 16 years since its passage, VAWA has provided billions of dollars for social service agencies helping victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.  This funding provides crisis intervention, safety planning, counseling, shelter and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence.  Very little of those services have been focused on LGBTQ people. This year VAWA is up for re-authorization.  It is time for VAWA to explicitly include LGBTQ people.  We must support a bill that reaches and supports all victims of violence.



The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) ( works to prevent, respond to and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected (LGBTQH) communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs, affiliate organizations and individuals who create systemic and social change. We strive to increase power, safety and resources through data analysis, policy advocacy, education and technical assistance. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. 


Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Universities Should Support VAWA

By Melissa Siegel, National Youth Advisory Board

I am very passionate about issues of social justice. One issue in particular that I am very passionate about is ending teen dating violence and other forms of interpersonal violence. I currently work as a coordinator for a Teen Dating Violence Prevention Speaker’s Bureau where I get our speakers to speak out in the community about teen dating violence. I am also working to create a peer education program at my University around all forms of interpersonal violence, a program similar to the one I was in when I was a freshman at a different University before I transferred.

But Universities need the support of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Nearly half of dating college women (43%) report having experienced violent or abusive dating behaviors. Despite this high number, more than one-third of college students (38%) say they would not even know how to get help on campus if they found themselves in an abusive relationship. Colleges and universities need to provide more comprehensive responses and additional creative educational programs to address dating violence and abuse.

The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act (S. 834/H.R. 2016) is part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S. 1925).  This piece seeks to amend the Jeane Clery Act by offering far more comprehensive guidelines for handling sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking on campus.  The Campus SaVE act would: (1) increase transparency/safety by mandating that Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) report incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, have written policies in place, and inform reported victims of their rights, available services, and available legal/disciplinary processes; (2) improve education by providing programming addressing primary prevention and bystander intervention; (3) increase accountability my mandating minimum standards for campus disciplinary procedures; and (4) increase collaboration by having schools work together to develop best practices with the input of the Secretary of Education. The Campus SaVE Act is critical to effectively addressing the overwhelming problem facing our students. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S. 1925) also includes funding to help colleges and universities implement these and other programs on campus.  We need to pass the VAWA reauthorization bill now!


Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Students Against Dating/Domestic Abuse

By Sara Skavroneck, National Youth Advisory Board

I am a senior at Vanderbilt and the President of the University Branch of Promote SADA- Students Against Dating/Domestic Abuse and a member of the National Youth Advisory Board. We have co-authored a bill that would require teen dating violence prevention education in North Carolina high schools, and have presented our proposed bill directly to North Carolina Congress Members, including Representative Craig Horn and Senator Jim Davis. To lobby the support of the NC Congress, I have been working with law enforcement and school officials to gain statewide support for the bill. In order to raise awareness for teen dating violence prevention, I have received the support of several local principals to put on Teen Dating Violence Prevention presentations throughout February — National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month — for students using educational materials from Break the Cycle. I am also directly lobbying NC Congress members on the Education committee, and recruiting mass support for Teen Dating Violence Prevention education via this online petition: (

Dating abuse prevention has always been a passion of mine. I’ve volunteered and fundraised on a local level for the Battered Women’s Shelter of Charlotte, NC, but am excited and driven to impact dating/domestic abuse on a legislative level. Next year, I will be attending UNC Medical School, which will allow me to work side by side with legislators in the state capital. I will be starting a branch of Promote SADA at UNC Medical School, enabling medical students and doctors to effect change by raising awareness of the medical implications of teen dating violence.  This prestigious recognition would enable me to more effectively raise Teen Dating Violence Prevention awareness in schools state-wide, and lobby NC Congress, law enforcement, and school officials to pass a TDVP bill by 2013!!

Of course, I’m aware that states cannot accomplish this work alone.  We need the enhanced provisions of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S.1925) that continue grants for middle schools and high schools to build a comprehensive strategy to end dating violence and broaden programs that increase the focus on effective prevention education.  I urge Congress to pass the VAWA Reauthorization now!


Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival. National Youth Advisory Board Against Dating Violence

by Kevin Mauro,

My name is Kevin Mauro and I am currently a senior at the Hempfield Senior High School in Pennsylvania. Throughout my high school career, I have been involved in the Blackburn Center Youth Advisory board. The Blackburn Center is a local organization dedicated to creating awareness of domestic violence, educating young people about healthy relationships, and helping victims of domestic violence. One of my roles as a member of this board has been to help the Blackburn Center Advocates revise their curriculum to make it more teen-friendly and relevant. As a member of the National Youth Advisory Board, I have helped to revise the website to make it more modern and approachable for teenagers. I am very proud of the work this board is doing, as this website is an invaluable tool for teenagers to use. It helps to highlight the qualities of a healthy relationship and has chat, call, and text messaging services for teenagers in need of advice. At the National Youth Advisory Board conference in Texas a couple weeks ago, we learned many skills on how to be advocates for healthy relationships. We also created many plans which will be put into effect over the next few months. We plan to start slow with small events such as tabling to build suspense – then we will end with one large event in April for Global Youth Service Day.

I hope this demonstrates that young people are doing our part.  We see the relationship violence and abuse in our schools and want a change.  But we need help and support from our government.  The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S.1925), championed by Senators Leahy and Crapo, includes programming to help our schools develop and implement appropriate policies and procedures to deal with dating violence, train our teachers and coaches in what to look for and how to help us, and provide much needed prevention education.  I wish I had prevention education when I was a freshman, or even in middle school.  I hope we can get the Leahy/Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S.1925) passed soon so that my younger classmates will get that benefit.  Let’s use Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month (February) to make our voices heard!

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Teenage Dating Violence and VAWA

By Nikki Desario, National Youth Advisory Board

Hi, my name is Nicole.  I am 16 and a National Youth Advisory Board member from Montgomery, NJ.  I have worked on the issue of teen dating violence education for over a year.  I started out by getting involved in the passing of Safe Dating legislation in my state last year.  As I was campaigning for the passage of that law, I decided to do something more concrete.  I developed a program that I held during our state’s first “Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month” last February.  It was a great success and gave me the incentive to create something sustainable to continue to address the issue.

To that end, I went to my school with the idea of starting a club to specifically deal with teen dating violence education.  It was a long process getting everything set up, but it has been worth the effort.  The club, “MASK Theater” is really thriving now.  MASK stands for Montgomery Advocates for Solidarity and Kindness. We are students trained in relationship abuse education by a local domestic violence support agency. We use techniques like videos, music, poetry and theatrical performances in order to get our message across.  We feel that using presentations with media that youth can relate to keeps their attention and communicates the message more effectively.  MASK members are from diverse backgrounds, making the group more welcoming and relatable.

As a member of the National Youth Advisory Board (NYAB), it has been a pleasure to work with others from around the country who are so dedicated to teen dating violence prevention. It is an opportunity to unite the activists in our country who share the same vision.  They have been so supportive of my work with MASK; in fact, just a couple months ago, several members of the NYAB came to Washington, D.C. where I was honored as one of President Barack Obama’s Champions of Change.  It was amazing to meet my fellow board members face to face, and know that they took the time to come and support me. It was also fascinating to be able to put a face to the voices I have been connecting with through conference calls over the last year.

Champions of Change is a weekly initiative the White House hosts to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping the country rise up to meet challenges of the 21st century.  I was recognized because of my efforts in relationship abuse awareness and prevention in my community. I have worked with legislation, sustainable education, local agency resources, and the development of support groups.  When I was chosen as a Champion of Change, I was overwhelmed. It was humbling to meet the other recipients, some of whom, as I mentioned while I was there, had probably been fighting for the cause longer than I had been alive.

Recently, I attended a Domestic Violence Forum with Senator Frank Lautenberg where representatives from different agencies attended throughout New Jersey.  I am proud to say that Senator Lautenberg is one of the 28 co-sponsors of the most important piece of legislation addressing domestic and sexual violence that is before Congress this year, the Leahy/Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S. 1925).  This bill will reauthorize all of the critical programs that address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in our communities.  But, importantly, it will expand programming to work with young people to implement strong prevention programs for middle school, high school and college aged kids. It encourages the use of proven best practices as models for replication in other areas of the country.

Meeting so many new people recently has inspired me to work to spread MASK beyond the four walls of my high school so they too can start having a “by teens for teens” education program against relationship abuse. Who knows – if we can pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S. 1925), maybe one day MASK will be in a school near you!