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 WhiteHouse.gov.

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

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

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

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.


Birth Control Under Attack

by Debra Ness, President, National Partnership for Women and Families

Anti-choice extremists are trying to undermine women’s right to birth control under the Affordable Care Act. The health reform law covers preventive services, including birth control, without copays, deductibles or other added cost. For most women of reproductive age, contraception and birth control are the care they need most, the care they get most regularly, and their main reason for interacting with health providers, so this is one of the greatest benefits to women from the new law.

We were thrilled in August when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agreed and announced that women will have access to all approved contraceptive methods without co-pays or added cost under the Affordable Care Act.

But all women need this coverage. The administration included an unfair, broad — and potentially terribly harmful — exemption for certain religious employers, who would not have to provide coverage for contraception to their employees.

Too much is on the line for these women who rely on insurance to pay for their birth control. That’s why we’re urging President Obama to do what’s right for women’s health — to remove this religious refusal provision and not leave any women behind.

Tell President Obama that all women need access to contraception without co-pays or added cost, including women who work for religious employers!

Let’s not leave any woman to fend for herself.

Cross-posted with National Partnership for Women and Families

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Losing My Religion: Catholic Bishops Attack Reproductive Rights, Hoping to Undermine Birth Control Coverage

by Megan Kearns, Opinioness of the World

As an atheist who was born Catholic, I’m all too aware of the Catholic Church’s ridiculous no birth control stance. While the U.S. contains far more religiosity in its laws and customs than many of us may realize or admit, politicians and lobbyists often forget one crucial thing. The separation of church and state. But the church continually invades politics and healthcare. And of course attacks reproductive rights.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been doing some hardcore lobbying to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to expand a clause in the Affordable Care Act to allow any (that’s right any) religious institution to opt-out of birth control coverage. A fucking “conscience clause.” Lovely.

Is there a conscience clause for Viagara or Cialis? Nope. Cause the Catholic Church, an entity run by old white men, doesn’t care about controlling men’s reproduction. Only women’s.

The fabulous Abigail Collazzo, Fem2.0 Editor, argues:

“You know what violates my religious beliefs? Unjust war. Health insurance that covers Viagra but not abortion. Tax breaks for criminals. Punitive jail sentences for drug addicts who need treatment and counseling. The death penalty. Among many, many other things. But I don’t see anyone calling for me not to have to pay the taxes that pay for any of those things.”

“The thing is though, I don’t remember voting for the Catholic Church to be President of the United States.  Frankly, I don’t even recall seeing them on the ballot.”

It boggles my mind why the hell the Catholic Church thinks it possesses any right to deny healthcare. Shouldn’t medical decisions occur between a patient and their doctor? Absolutely (rhetorical question, folks).

When people control their reproductive health, they lead healthier and happier lives. Contraception is a tool of empowerment. It allows people to take charge of their bodies and sexuality; deciding if and when they want to have children.

Almost all women use birth control. More than 99% of women aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. Out of the 43 million women who are fertile, sexually active and not looking to get pregnant, 89% use birth control. But birth control affects people from various incomes differently. Denying coverage would strain peoples’ pockets.

If the Obama Administration listens to the bishops, 6 million people would be affected.  It would impact students, teachers, social workers, nurses, admin staff and their families at religiously affiliated schools, universities and hospitals. As Kim Gandy, former NOW President, writes at Ms. Magazine and HERVotes:

“…regardless of the religious beliefs of those employees and students.”

The Catholic Church wants to mandate what they constitute as “morality.” But what about my morality? What about quality healthcare? What about access to abortion and contraception? Gay marriage and adoption? Laws protecting domestic violence survivors? Evolution not creationism taught in schools? Comprehensive sex ed? No, the Catholic Church doesn’t give a shit about that kind of morality.

While President Obama is pro-choice, he has bent to the will of the anti-choice movement too many times. Responding to the shock over the Obama administration contemplating “caving to the anti-choice movement,” Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check writes:

“It is disturbing.  But it is also completely predictable because it has happened repeatedly. Think Stupak Amendment executive order; think Nelson Amendment to the health care reform bill in the Senate.  Think about the President’s complete 180 on the Hyde Amendment. Think about the HHS regs that voluntarily expanded the denial of coverage of abortion care, applying the Stupak Amendment to exchanges, even though this was not required by law. Think of Obama’s silence in the face of clinic violence and the death of Dr. Tiller.  Think about the continued ab-only money and the fact that our international funding is still going to discredited programs.  I could go on but will stop there because it is all too depressing.”

Um remind me again…don’t we have separation of church and state?! Hopefully Obama remembers that too. Ugh.

This post is part of the HERVotes Blog Carnival: Women v. The Bishops. Sign the petition to ask President Obama to support birth control coverage. Follow the #bcrefusal and #HERVotes tweets.

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

by the National Organization for Women


The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I write to you on behalf of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the millions of women who need access to affordable birth control and will be eligible for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As the Department of Health and Human Services finalizes regulations for implementation of women’s preventive services under the new law, I am alarmed by the full court press on your administration being mounted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other opponents of contraception. Most worrisome is the selfsatisfied comment of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who, after meeting privately with you last week, is reported to have “found the president of the United States to be very open to the sensitivities of the Catholic community.”

But the fact is that the archbishop’s notion of the Catholic community’s “sensitivities” is wildly out of step with most Catholic women. In this country, about 99 percent of sexually-experienced people have used birth control, including Catholic women at 98 percent. A recent Hart Research Survey indicated that, “Americans, including Catholic Americans, resoundingly support the women’s preventative coverage benefit. 71 percent of voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, in fact, support the requirement that health plans cover contraception at no-cost.”

Even if this inconvenient truth were otherwise, the USCCB has no business trying to force its extremist ideology on the women of the United States. Birth control is not only universally used in this country, it is a fundamental and constitutionally-protected right that no one — neither religious zealots nor politicians nor government agencies — may legitimately infringe. The bishops may wish you to use your presidential power to block women’s access to needed health care, but I urge you to do what is right.

Regrettably, HHS regulations already include a sweeping refusal clause allowing a broad swath of religious organizations to withhold coverage for needed contraception from their women employees. This clause should be eliminated, not expanded. It endangers the health and wellbeing of many women and their families, especially those with low to moderate incomes. For millions of women, contraception is crucial to family planning, allowing fewer unplanned pregnancies by letting women decide if and when they want to start a family and to appropriately space pregnancies.

Moreover, there is nothing in the HHS regulations requiring organizations to dispense birth control, or an individual to take it. The regulations merely require employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception with no co-payment, just as they do a host of other preventive measures like mammograms, cervical cancer screenings and the like.

The thousands of women who work for Catholic and other religious and quasi-religious institutions, no less than other women, deserve access to affordable health insurance coverage of birth control. Your administration should not override the sound medical advice from the Institute of Medicine about the reproductive health care needs of millions of women at the behest of religious extremists — and let’s be clear: When it comes to women’s reproductive health care needs, the USCCB is out of touch and out of bounds.

On behalf of the National Organization for Women, I hope you continue to prioritize women’s issues and firmly urge you to reject any and all refusal clauses and to approve final regulations that unconditionally support the full range of reproductive health care services for the women of this nation. As you are aware, it is educated women who have provided crucial support to your presidency and who have welcomed your singular effort to expand access to health insurance coverage — please do not let them down.

With best regards,

Terry O’Neill


Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

HERVotes Blog Carnival: Women v. the Bishops

by Kim Gandy, Feminist Majority Foundation

Welcome to the sixth #HERvotes blog carnival on the effort by the Catholic bishops to allow some institutions to refuse, under the Affordable Care Act, birth control coverage without co-pays to students and employees of  hospitals, universities, and other institutions, or other religious affiliated or connected institutions such as Catholic Charities.

Birth control coverage with no co-pays?  Without a doubt one of the most popular benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the preventive care provisions for women require nearly every health insurance provider to cover contraception without any cost sharing.

Until now.  Maybe.  Because there’s a full court press from the Conference of Catholic Bishops (yes, reportedly even the Archbishops are weighing in) pressuring the White House to dramatically expand this refusal clause.

The Catholic bishops want to exempt the health insurance of every religiously-connected or affiliated institution from this requirement, and millions of Americans would lose this benefit – students, teachers and staff at religiously-connected schools and universities; social workers, nurses, and other staff (and their families) at religiously-affiliated hospitals that employ thousands of people, huge organizations like Catholic Charities, and many more – regardless of the religious beliefs of those employees and students.

Although the pro-choice community opposed having any exemptions from contraceptive coverage, the guidelines issued by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius contained a narrow exemption that applied primarily to houses of worship.  But the bishops want more.  Much more.
If the bishops have their way, at least six million women with health insurance will lose this new contraceptive coverage benefit, for no reason other than where they work or go to school.

We must keep the Affordable Care Act strong, and preventive care for women is critical.

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

If we spread the word far enough we can make sure the White House hears women’s voices as strongly as they are hearing from the bishops.

The blog posts below share more reasons why we need to take action now.  Happy reading and thanks for joining the fight to save contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act.

#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, many of which are at risk in the next election.  We are very excited HERvotes is growing in membership and reaching millions of people.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Birth Control Under Attack- Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women and Families

Losing My Religion: Catholic Bishops Attack Reproductive Rights, Hoping to Undermine Birth Control Coverage- Megan Kearns, Opinioness of the World

Don’t Boss My Birth Control- Amy Cotton, National Council of Jewish Women

Conservative Media Are Still Pretending That Catholics Don’t Support Insurance Coverage For Contraception- Marcus Feldman, Media Matters

President Obama: Don’t Cave in to Bishops- Say It Sister, NOW’s Blog for Equality

Fight Against an Expanded Religious Exemption that Denies Birth Control Coverage- Dren Asselmeier, Center for Inquiry on Campus

Latinas urge Obama Administration to Support Birth Control Access For All Women- Rebecca Pleitez, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

Conscience Clause: Preserving Morality or Creating Immorality?- Liz Beaulac, National Women’s Law Center

Sad Reality: New President, Same Fight- Stephanie Drahan, National Women’s Law Center

Make the Promise of Preventative Care in the ACA Real for All Women- The Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health

Calling On President Obama to Demonstrate His Respect for Women- Amy Allina, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need

The Catholic Church Wasn’t on My Ballot: What’s Next for President Obama and Birth Control - Abigail Collazo, Fem 2.0

What is So Wrong With Abstinence Education? – Kat Sabine – the Bitch in the house

Take Action: Don’t Let the Catholic Church Deny Birth Control Coverage to Millions – Holly L. Derr, Ms. Magazine

Is Obama Caving to Bishops out of Misplaced “Gratitude”? – Holly L. Derr, Ms. Magazine

The Other 99% – Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, blogging on Huffington Post

A Message About Birth Control from the 71% – Meghan Shalvoy, Feminist Majority Foundation

The Other 99%: Will Obama Betray Them? - Carole Joffe, RHRealityCheck

Washington Post’s Gerson Ignores Catholics’ Opinions To Accuse The Obama Administration Of “Anti-Catholic Bias“- M.F., Media Matters

Right-Wing Media Twist Pelosi’s “Conscience” Comment To Claim She “Bash[ed] Catholics”- C.R., Media Matters

Fox & Friends Hypes Gerson’s Op-Ed To Accuse Obama Of Being “Anti-Catholic”- Media Matters

Women’s Basic Health Coverage Is Not For Sale- Miri Cypers, Jewish Women International

Tell Obama to Protect Birth Control- Maureen Shaw, sherights

Tell President Obama All Women Need Affordable Birth Control- Judy Waxman, National Women’s Law Center

My Employer Shouldn’t Control My Contraception Decisions- Leila Abolfazli, National Women’s Law Center

 Blog Carnival: #HERVotes against the Bishops- Heather Prescott, Knitting Clio

Should Catholic Bishops Have the Right to Control Your Life?- Janet Hill, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)

An Open Letter to President Obama- National Organization for Women

Should Organized Religion Have More Rights Than Women?- Georgia Platts, Ms. Magazine


Check out the action petitions:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Feminist Majority Foundation

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

National Council of Jewish Women