Save #VAWA! Pass the Violence Against Women Act: A HERVotes Blog Carnival

Photo via AAUW

by Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation and KristinRowe-Finkbeiner,

UPDATE (2/28/2013): VICTORY! The House of Representatives decided to stand with students, Native Americans, immigrants, and the LGBT community and passed the Senate inclusive #VAWA in a vote 286-138!


At last the House will vote on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) tomorrow. The reauthorization has been held up by partisan politics for over 500 days. Enough is enough.

Eliminating violence against women is not a partisan issue. We’re speaking up loud and clear: HERvotes urges House Representatives to vote for the bipartisan, inclusive Senate bill today.

We can’t wait any longer: Domestic violence results in over two million injuries every year. Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Three women die every day in the United States as the result of domestic violence.

You can make the difference! We invite you to take a brief moment to read the blog posts below (Scroll down). And then, importantly, to help spread the word and keep up the pressure on our elected leaders by sharing the posts below on Facebook, Twitter (with the hashtag #HERVotes), and Pinterest. And be sure to follow @HERvotes on Twitter!

#HERvotes, a multi-organization campaign launched in August 2011, advocates women using our voices and votes to stop the attacks on the women’s movement’s major advances. Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.


* Congress Must Act Immediately to Reauthorize Federal Legislation to Protect All Victims of Violence, Dara Richardson-Heron, MD, YWCA

* Don’t Be Fooled, Janet Hill, Coalition of Labor Union Women (USW)

* Advocating for an Inclusive VAWA, Amanda Reed, National Organization for Women (NOW)

* This Season’s Paul Ryan? Eric Cantor Takes on VAWA, Terry O’Neill, National Organization for Women (NOW)

* Prioritizing Campus Safety, American Association of University Women

* Victims of Abuse Suffer Each Day an Inclusive VAWA Reauthorization is Delayed or Weakened, Avril Lighty, The Leadership Conference Education Fund

* Whatever Affects One Woman, Affects ALL Women, Bernardita “Beni” Yunis Varas, Young People For

* When Dating Violence Hits Close to Home, Madeline Shepherd, National Council of Jewish Women

* Violence Against Women Act Must Move Forward, National Association of Social Workers

* Join Ashley Greene and Support VAWA, Love Is Respect

* Support VAWA, Love Is Respect

*The Election is Over, Organizing for VAWA Isn’t, Love is Respect

* Servicing Members is Sometimes Sad, Judy Beard, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)

* House of Representatives Republicans: You Should Represent Women Too, Phyllis Johnson, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)

* Turning “Ifs” into “Whens”: College Students Like Me Need Reauthorization of a Full VAWA, Dana Bolger, NWLC

* New Congress should focus on passing VAWA, Sharon Stapel, New York City Anti-Violence Project

*House can no longer ignore violence against LGBT community, Sharon Stapel, New York City Anti-Violence Project

*Congress’ Opportunity to Protect All Women From Violence—We Say, Yes! Cristina M. Finch, Women’s Human Rights Program, Amnesty International USA and Adjunct Law Professor, George Mason University School of Law

*A VAWA For All Victims, Shaina Goodman, National Network to End Domestic Violence

*WHY WOMEN’S VOICES MUST “ROAR” IN MARCH, 2013, M. DeLois (Dee) Strum, The National Coalition of 100 Black Women

*Violence Erased Between the Lines, Kari Ross, Feminist Majority

*VAWA is Only the First Step, Emily Charlap, Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)

*Campus SaVE, Courtney Condit, Break the Cycle

*Include Campus SaVE in VAWA — Today, Tory Corliss, Break the Cycle Policy Intern

*Congress: Pass a VAWA that includes Campus SaVE!, Julia, Break the Cycle


Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

HERvotes Blog Carnival: No Religious Exemption for Birth Control Coverage

by Kim Gandy, Feminist Majority Foundation

Despite enormous pressure from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Obama Administration recently decided not to broaden the religious exemption for contraceptive coverage under the Preventive Care package of the Affordable Care Act. This demand for additional exemptions,  would have denied millions of American women contraceptive coverage, including students, teachers, nurses, social workers, and other staff (and their families) at religiously-connected or affiliated schools, universities, and hospitals, as well as agencies and institutions like Catholic Charities.

The Catholic Bishops are now leading a backlash against this decision, and women are speaking out.  Because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of women who may have been denied access to birth control will now have full access under their health insurance plan, with no co-pays or deductibles, beginning in August 2012. Birth control is the number one prescription drug for women ages 18 to 44 years. Right now, the average woman has to pay up to $50 per month for 30 years for birth control. As a result, many women have had to forgo regular use of birth control and half of US pregnancies are unplanned.

Women of all faiths are employed by hospitals and schools that are owned by religious interests, and they should not be denied equal health care coverage.  We urge the Obama Administration to continue to stand strong for women’s health care.

Join us by sharing the posts below on Facebook, Twitter (using the hashtag #HERvotes), and other social media.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Take Action:

Join the Feminist Majority Foundation in chastising the Washington Post for repeatedly running editorials attacking the Obama administration’s decision.

Join The National Women’s Law Center and Raising Women’s Voices in thanking Kathleen Sebelius for making the right decision.

Join UltraViolet in thanking President Obama and Secretary Sebelius.

Thank the Obama administration directly on

Join the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in telling President Obama you support birth control without co-pays.

Join The National Women’s Law Center in telling your senator to reject extreme legislation.

Join The Coalition of Labor Union Women in telling the Senate that you oppose S.2043.

Read more:

Sex, Contraception, Motherhood & The Current Madness - Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Mom’s Rising

The Long History of the War Against Contraception- Ellen Chesler, New Deal 2.0

Five Big Facts on Birth Control Not Nearly Enough Discussed by Men in the Mainstream Media- Erin Matson, NOW

Congressional Members’ Statements on Contraceptive Coverage Rule Not Based in Fact- Mara Gandal-Powers, National Women’s Law Center

Mission Accomplished With Komen: Now It’s Time to Save Birth Control Coverage!- Sammie Moshenberg, National Council of Jewish Women

Protect Women’s Health: Tell Your Senators to Reject Extreme Legislation- Judy Waxman, National Women’s Law Center

I Don’t Use Birth Control, But I Want Access To It- Abigail Collazo, Fem 2.0

This Week’s Attack on Women: Deny Contraceptives! Take Action!!- Carolyn Jacobson and Carol S. Rosenblatt, Coalition of Labor Union Women

Would You Like an Unplanned Pregnancy with that Burrito?- Jen Wang, NARAL’s Blog for Choice

HERvotes: Boehner Ups the Threat Against Contraception Coverage- Ms. Blog

Do Republicans Have Sex?- Ellen R. Shaffer, Silver Ribbon Campaign

Major Mainstream Religious Leaders Support White House on Contraceptive Coverage In Health Care Reform- Religious Institute

The Fight Millennials Never Expected: Birth Control- Sarah, Advocates for Youth

An Unholy Alliance Between the Bishops and the Right-Wing Attack Machine- Amy Allina, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need, National Women’s Health Network

An Equal & Just World: A Woman’s Right to Control Her Own Reproductive Health- Hannah Sherman, Jewish Women International

Margaret and Helen on the Issues- Margaret and Helen

Religious Freedom in the Crosshairs of Catholic Bishops- Jon O’Brien, Catholics for Choice (Editorial in Concord Monitor)

Co-Pay for Birth Control? Not Under my Conscience Clause- Bettina Hager, National Women’s Political Caucus

Select Media Coverage:  Catholics Supporting Contraceptive Coverage Under the ACA- Complied by Catholics for Choice

Seven Things You (and the Media) Need to Know about Birth Control -Jacqueline M., Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Women Are Watching Blog

Obama’s contraception exemption puts my patients at risk -Dr. Jennifer H. Tang, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health; Letter to the Editor, The Charlotte Observer

Many Uses for Birth Control- Yolanda Evans, MD, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Contraception Mandate Doesn’t Force Use -Bernice Durbin, Letter to the Editor, USA Today

Why All Employers Should Provide Insurance Coverage for Birth Control -Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Delays and Barriers to Accessing BC at Georgetown -Sandra Fluke, Georgetown University Law Students for Reproductive Justice

How to Host a Birth Control Clinic in 3 Easy Steps -Emily T. Wolf, Fordham Law Students for Reproductive Justice

Obama Administration Ensures a Wide Range of Contraceptive Insurance Coverage, Even at Religiously-Affiliated Institutions -Women’s Law Project

Birth Control and Government: The Right of Refusal Should Belong to Women -Nancy K. Kaufman, National Council of Jewish Women

Through the Looking Glass on  Contraception Coverage -Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families

For the Sisters -Megan Lieff, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Thank you, Obama, For Standing with ALL Women on Important Health Care Issues Lacy Langbecker, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health

Birth Control Matters -Nita Chaudhary and Shaunna Thomas, UltraViolet

Would you let someone make your contraceptive decisions for you? Didn’t think so -Mara Gandal-Powers, National Women’s Law Center

?The Highs and Lows on Birth Control Access Coverage -Stephanie Drahan, National Women’s Law Center

Hey Media: It’s about the Health of Women and Families -Leila Abolfazli, National Women’s Law Center

?Women of Childbearing Age: Take Your Talents Elsewhere -Jill C. Morrison, National Women’s Law Center

My Health Is Not a Pork Chop -Dania Palanker, National Women’s Law Center

Single 18 year-old female. Desperately seeking affordable and accessible contraception. – Keely Monroe, National Women’s Health Network

NASW Supports HHS Decision on Women’s Rights -National Association of Social Workers

Fight Against the Catholic Attack on Preventative Healthcare for Women -Mallen Urso, National Women’s Political Caucus

The Impact of a Religious Exemption for Birth Control to University Students – Emily T. Wolf, Fordham Law Students for Reproductive Justice

We’re Not Giving Up! – Amy Allina, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need, National Women’s Health Network

Maryland Women Have a Right to Birth Control- Leni Preston, Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care

Critics Get It Wrong on Contraceptive Coverage- Marcia D. Greenberger, National Women’s Law Center

One More Time…- Jill Morrison, National Women’s Law Center

Breaking News: Access to No-Cost Birth Control Secured- Judy Waxman, National Women’s Law Center

What Difference does a Co-Pay Make? Plenty!- Cindy Pearson, Raising Women’s Voices

The Greatest Advance for Women in a Generation- Jean Silver-Isenstadt, MD, PhD, National Physicians Alliance

#Fail on Birth Control from The Washington Post- Thomas Dollar, NARAL Pro-Choice America

Response to Washington Post Criticism of Contraceptive Coverage- Nancy Keenan, NARAL Pro-Choice America

HERvotes Blog Carnival: Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

by Emily Alfano, National Council of Jewish Women

For the eighth #HERvotes blog carnival, our coalition of women’s groups is joining forces for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found alarming rates of sexual violence, stalking, and domestic violence. One in 4 U.S. women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, and nearly 1 in 5 has been raped in her lifetime.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider legislation that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the largest policy effort aimed at responding to and preventing these crimes. First passed in 1994, VAWA supports comprehensive, cost-saving responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Since its passage in 1994, more victims report domestic violence to the police and the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 53 percent.

HERvotes supports VAWA’s lifesaving programs and services and urges Congress to reauthorize and improve VAWA’s critical programs for five more years.

Let’s spread the word and make sure Congress hears our voices.

Join us by sharing the posts below on Facebook, Twitter (using the hashtag #HERvotes), and other social media.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Take Action:

National Organization for Women petition to Congress

Read more:

A Critical Tool to Save Lives: VAWA -Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, American Bar Association

Violence Is a Cycle: We Must Reauthorize VAWA -John Roach, Break the Cycle

Calling for the Reauthorization of VAWA- Brandi Callaghan, Feminist Majority Foundation

Immigration, Intimate Partner Violence, and the Violence Against Women Act -Anjela Jenkins, Law Students for Reproductive Justice Fellow, blogging for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

Teen Dating Violence -Christine Bork, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

Hey Congress, How About Giving Half the Population Some Love? -Janet Hill, Coalition of Labor Union Women

“It’s a Good Time To Be a Black Woman? Well, Not So Good When It Comes To Violence”- Angela Sutton, Black Women’s Health Imperative

Combating Domestic Violence: A Call to Reauthorize VAWA- Mallen Urso, National Women’s Political Caucus

Taking the Violence Against Women Act to Higher Ground- Emily Alfano, NCJW

Tell Your Senator to Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act Now- Elizabeth Owens, AAUW

Why VAWA is a Queer Issue- Terra Slavin, L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and Sharon Stapel, New York City Anti-Violence Project

Universities Should Support VAWA- Melissa Siegel, National Youth Advisory Board

Students Against Dating/Domestic Abuse- Sara Skavroneck, National Youth Advisory Board National Youth Advisory Board Against Dating Violence- Kevin Mauro, National Youth Advisory Board

Teenage Dating Violence and VAWA- Nikki Desario, National Youth Advisory Board

Joining Forces – Women Veterans Speak Out: The Trenches, Remembered- Joan Grey, Business and Professional Women’s Foundation

Violence Against Women Act up for Reauthorization- National Association of Social Workers

Wake up, People! Domestic Violence is an Epidemic!- Donna Pantry, Elf Lady’s Chronicles

Recession and Women: How Economic Insecurity Enables Abuse- Donna Addkison’s, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW)

More Bipartisan Support Needed for Violence Against Women Act- Terry O’Neill, Say It Sister- NOW’s Blog for Equality


Violence is a Cycle: We Must Reauthorize VAWA!

By John Roach, Break the Cycle and student at Georgetown University

Since VAWA was first passed in 1994, there have been great strides towards stopping violence in the US.  States have passed more than 600 laws to combat the violence, the rate of non-fatal intimate violence against women has decreased drastically, and more victims report abuse to the police – in fact, there has been up to a 51% increase in reporting by women.  Clearly, VAWA has done wonders for women everywhere.

However, eighteen years later, domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking continue to run rampant among youth in the United States.  One needs only to look at the statistics to see the problem:  One quarter of High School girls have been the victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.  80% of female victims of sexual assault experience their first rape before age twenty five; 42% before age eighteen.  What resources are available for these youth?  Well, despite 43% of victims reporting that abuse happened on school grounds, educators and administrative staff are often untrained at recognition and intervention – possibly lending to the fact that 2/3 of young victims never even report being abused.

The lack of help for these young victims takes a legitimate toll. Victims of dating violence or sexual coercion are 3 times more likely to score mostly D’s and F’s in school than A’s. And there’s more. Young victims of intimate partner violence are three times more likely to suffer from depression, three times more likely to display disordered eating behaviors, four times more likely to contemplate suicide, thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse illegal and prescription drugs.

These problems are real, and yet the resources available to these young people are few and far between.  Victim service providers who primarily serve adults lack resources to deal with the specific needs of younger victims, leading to fewer youth seeking help. It is clear that we must find more effective ways to address teen and young adult domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and stalking.  It is time to hear these stories and help these youth.

If authorized, the new VAWA (S. 1925) will help to accomplish this.  It would consolidate two programs already in place – Services to Advocate for and Respond to Youth (STARY) and Supporting Teens through Education and Protection (STEP) – to create an all-encompassing approach to violence prevention, making schools safer and relevant services available.  STARY grants allow for organizations to establish youth-focused services for sexual and dating violence, while the STEP program will help schools work collaboratively with victim service providers and pertinent organizations to ensure that all young people have access to the resources they need.  Furthermore, the new VAWA also provides services for those who are put at risk by exposure to violence at a young age. Approximately 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year.  Physical abuse during childhood increases both the risk of future victimization and perpetuation of abuse – it must be addressed directly, but most children today do not have access to these services. If reauthorized, VAWA will help establish mental health services for these children, who have typically been able to overcome their trauma when placed under such programs.  By putting necessary focus on violence among youth, VAWA can help America’s suffering young victims and prevent future suffering.

There is no denying that this is a dire issue that faces America’s youth.  But there is also no denying that something can, and should, be done about it.  What can you do?  Join the effort to prevent violence in youth culture.  Spread the word: share your story on Facebook and like this page for pertinent information and events, trend on Twitter (using the hashtag #ReauthorizeVAWA), or pursue other social media efforts.  Email Congress and tell them how much VAWA means to you.  Write to Senators who are not yet Co-Sponsors of S.1925 and ask for their support. We must be sure that Congress hears our voices.  Violence is a cycle – 35% of women who are raped as minors will be raped again as adults.  We must prevent violence before it starts.  We must reauthorize VAWA!

February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Hey Congress, How About Giving Half the Population Some Love?

By Janet Hill, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)

Woo hoo! Call your senator and thank him or her! Violence against women and children has been eliminated!  No domestic violence, no date rape, no stalking, no workplace violence.  It’s all gone!  All those stories about domestic violence going up when the economy is bad, those are just tall tales!  After all that has to be why funding levels  are being slashed back to  2000 levels in VAWA 2011  (Violence Against Women Act 2011) and some people don’t want to reauthorize it at all.

After all it’s not like women are half the population or anything and surely it’s not better to prevent women from being killed or injured by violence than to just let the chips fall where they may….

By the way, the act also protects men and children from violence.  That funding cut – more than three fourths of VAW programs have had their overall funding cut from state local and private sources and are reporting that demand for programs has increased, so maybe it’s just not a tall tale? As a matter of fact the Centers for Disease Control reports that as many as 24 people per minute are victims of violence by an intimate partner.

The Network to End Domestic Violence estimates that more than 3.5 million violence survivors were turned away due to inadequate funding and staffing of VAW programs.  So when you make that call to your senator – let them know that you think it’s wrong and costly to turn away violence victims.  VAWA not only provided training to youth and boys to help prevent violence, it also provides assistance to local law enforcement  to investigate and prosecute crimes and support to nonprofits to  assist survivors with transitional housing, legal assistance and supervised visitation services.  It provides tools to help police the courts and other providers to help identify those at high risk of homicide.  It also provides help in tribal communities.

So make that call and ask your senator why he or she is cutting services to your sister, mother, aunt, niece or grandchild?  After all doesn’t being half the population count for something?  Doesn’t it make sense and isn’t it less expensive to prevent violence before it occurs.  While you are at it – talk to your neighbor and let them know what Congress is up to.  Violence occurs in neighborhoods and schools and it’s up to us all to prevent it.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

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.