Latino Groups Urge Obama to Stand Firm on Birth Control Without Co-Pays

See all our coverage of the Birth Control Mandate 2011 here

Today, a coalition of more than 20 organizations representing millions of Latinos sent a letter to President Obama urging him to support and maintain the recent Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decision requiring health plans to cover preventive health care for women with no co-pays, including cancer screenings, immunizations, and birth control. Recent reports have indicated that the White House, under mounting pressure from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other far-right religious groups, may be considering an unacceptably broad exemption that would leave millions of women without insurance coverage for contraception.

In the letter, the groups, led by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) and the Hispanic Federation wrote:

As national leaders in the movement for Latino rights and equality, we support full reproductive rights, including access to birth control for all women, and reject efforts that put the preferences of insurance companies and employers over the rights of women to make their own contraceptive health decisions in consultation with their doctors. We urge you to stand by your own administration’s decision to issue new standards requiring all insurers to cover contraceptives without a deductible or a co-payment. As you know these new rules already exempt churches and religious institutions from having to provide contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing for their employees.

HHS issued the standard earlier this year after the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended birth control be covered as a women’s preventive service and therefore covered with no co-pays under the new Affordable Care Act.  The IOM report was widely celebrated by advocates for Latina women and the promise of affordable and accessible reproductive health care.

“The HHS decision to cover birth control without co-pay as preventive health care is one of the most popular provisions of the new Affordable Care Act,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of NLIRH. “As we talk with Latina women around the country, they are overwhelmingly in support of the provision, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum.”

“The Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to require health plans to cover birth control without cost-sharing is [also[ one of the greatest advancements for women’s health in decades,” said the letter to Obama.

Unfortunately, some organizations and lawmakers are calling for an unfair expansion of the religious exemption—such as an exemption for religious hospitals and universities that serve and employ people of diverse faiths. Taking away this benefit from millions of women and their families has no basis in the law, is bad health policy, and is contrary to overwhelming public opinion.

Birth control use is nearly universal in the United States: 98 percent of sexually-experienced women will have used birth control at some point in their lives, including Catholic women. Latinas, including Catholic Latinas, resoundingly support the women’s preventive coverage benefit. In fact, 89 percent of Latina voters ages 18 to 34 support the requirement that health plans cover birth control at no cost.

And cost is indeed a critical factor in access to contraception for millions of women. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 50 percent of women ages 18 to 34, including Latinas, say there has been a time when cost of prescription birth control interfered with their ability to use it consistently. Cost barriers to birth control therefore contribute to unintended pregnancies and to abortions.

“Beliefs about prescription contraceptives are personal ones,” wrote the coalition.

It is unthinkable that a woman could be cut off from her ability to access legitimate medical and professional services solely because of the religious beliefs of her institutional employer. Millions of workers and their families would lose benefits if the refusal provision is expanded. For example, an expansion could impact nearly one million people (and their dependents) who work at Catholic hospitals, as well as approximately 2 million students and workers at religiously-affiliated universities. That’s millions of American workers who would lose a benefit that finally makes an essential health care service affordable.

“For a lot of Latina women and their families, this would be a devastating blow to their well-being,” said Lillian Rodríguez López, President of the Hispanic Federation.  “Birth control can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars. The HHS decision frees up that money so women can afford to put food on their families table, pay for gas to get to work or pay for school tuition.”

“We urge you stand by your policy on birth control coverage and continue to follow the recommendation of the respected, non-partisan Institute of Medicine,” the coalition letter concluded. “Preventive care for all women produces better health outcomes for all and reflects the fundamental belief that access to quality health care is a human right.”


These groups urge you to take action:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Feminist Majority Foundation

Emily’s List

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health


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  • beckyl

    I can support free birth control pills, but only when essential life saving medications are first offered for free. Elderly medicare patients pay a copy, people with cancer, diabetes, and all kinds of health problems pay for their medicine, which is an absolute need with no alternative. BC pills are a want, not a need, and I think they should be last on the totem pole of free drugs. I share this view as a 32 year old who has used birth contro pillsl, paid co-pays for it, and watched the elderly folks in my family struggle to pay for cancer meds, MS meds, etc… I think it is the moral thing to address those with life threatening conditions first and then move onto non essential drugs.

  • jodi-jacobson

    Nothing in either the Affordable Care Act nor in the HHS regulations makes birth control free.  It is available without a co-pay, as will be a wide range of preventive care options.  It is not a single thing that is made available without a co-pay; it is just the one component of preventive care that is under attack by the religious right.  “Without a co-pay” does not mean free.  I pay for insurance and some of those things for which my children and I are covered are without a co-pay and others are not.  More expensive things usually do require a co-pay.  I paid a $10.00 co-pay for my son’s visit for an ear infection, and several hundreds in copays when my daughter had a concussion during a sports event. Birth control has nothing to do with either.

    You are pitting two forms of care, preventive and curative, against each other in ways that are unnecessary.  I completely agree that medicines people need for treatment of a wide variety of conditions are far too expensive.  I take two such forms of medication.  But these are not comparable, and are not pitted against each other in either the regulations nor in the legislation.  You also are mixing up different systems.  One big problem we have are massive cuts at the federal and state level of care for the poor and elderly.  These systems are different than those that provide primary preventive care for people in their late teens, and their twenties through forties.

    Moreover, I take strong issue with your characterization of birth control as a “want, not a need.”  Simply not true. For one thing, many, many couples want to plan their families for very rational and real economic, social, and health reasons.  Unintended and unwanted pregnancies–the outcome of barriers to contraceptive methods–are far more costly to society than is provision of birth control and those costs do indeed begin to impinge on our ability to pay for other forms of care.  Moreover, a large share of women who use hormonal birth control methods such as the pill do so either solely for health reasons or for health reasons as well as fertility control.  You might as well say, let’s not make dental checkups affordable because some people have heart disease. 

    The real comparison is whether we are making preventive care for diabetes, heart disease and other leading causes of morbidity and mortality affordable and accessible while also making treatments for these more affordable and accessible.


    Jodi Jacobson






  • beckyl

    Jodi – so this is probably totally the wrong thing to say to an editor of a feminist site, but you are pretty and smart! Thanks for your take on things, I love reading all the info on RH reality check, I often dont agree with posts ( I support rather traditional gender roles and ideas) but love the brain food and appreciate all the views shared here.  Thanks for running such an informative site.

  • person-0

    What exactly are ‘traditional gender roles’?

  • crowepps

    As a general rule, though, traditional gender roles are if it involves having power, controlling others, getting money for your work, enjoying status and public admiration or having fun, it’s for the men.  If it involves having other people tell you what to do, working just as hard but being expected to do so for free, being sneered at and criticized no matter what you do, it’s for the women.

  • crowepps

    Pregnancy is ALWAYS a life threatening condition.  Most women survive it, but there’s no way of knowing beforehand which ones will have life threatening complications.  The fact you’re not aware of that reflects your luck in growing up in a modern country with modern medicine including birth control that has reduced what used to be the most common cause of women’s deaths to a rare condition.  Here.

    In most of the rest of the world, the likely cause of most women’s deathes or disability is pregnancy and delivery.  Were you aware that maternal mortality rates have been increasing rapidly in the United States?  Are you sure you want to align yourself with the forces advocating policies that will push those rates higher and higher because they believe that is the appropriate ‘consequence’ for women who have sex?

    The thing that is particularly puzzling about arguments like this is that the alternative to eliminating the copay on birth control is continuing to pay for expensive prenatal care and expensive treatment of pregnancy complications and expensive deliveries/caesarians and expensive neonatal nurseries.  When birth control is available with no copay, the amount of money paid out by insurance companies doesn’t change one cent.

  • person-0

    those concepts continue to die off with each generation and that young people continue to reject them as they realize their worth is not tied up with their gender.

  • beckyl

    croweeps – sadly, I am aware too well of pregnancy complications. 4 years ago I had a miscarriage that resulted in hemorraging and I believe I would have died without the medical interevention I received. I was truly scared for my life.  I am pregnant now and on bed rest in the hospital and have been for the last two weeks after my water broke at 25 weeks along. I get daily reminders about the possibility of death to the baby and I from infection and blood clots.  My heart is broken being away from my other children, who are little girls that I want to have a future of safety if they have children. I will be having a third one of those expensive c- sections to have the new baby. Alright folks, I’ve been swayed.  No copay birth control for everyone!  I was so caught up thinking about people with terminal illness I was not using my brain.

  • crowepps

    BeckyL – I sincerely hope things work out well for you.  I am glad your life was saved 4 years ago, as mine was 30 years ago, and I hope the doctors do the best they can for you and your baby this time.

    I would note that you and the doctors don’t need the interference of some bishop, hanging over your shoulders checking to see if you’re complying with his moral rules, and feeling entitled to dictate what you can do, what your doctor can do, and whether or not you get to go home to your little girls.  As an adult human being with a working brain and freedom of conscience, you’re capable of handling those decisions all by yourself.