Women received a small victory yesterday when the Obama administration announced that most employers will have to provide contraceptives at no cost to their employees. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops remain strong and determined to take away your rights.
Today, the Obama administration stood up for women’s health and announced it would keep in place a proposed rule that ensures that new insurance plans include coverage of contraception.
When she was Governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius was a backstop for the pro-choice community on many anti-choice bills. However, she was also known to play a little politics with women’s health. Let’s hope that she doesn’t choose this issue to toss to the rabid dog Bishops as some kind of “pro-life” contraceptive Scooby Snack.
Jed Lewison, writing at Daily Kos, nails it when he underscores what’s wrong with the reasons the White House is now giving as it considers caving to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on coverage of birth control. The President and the White House staff, it seems, just do not get it.
So, what have we got in this latest reproductive rights crisis? The one where the Catholic bishops and the President are debating and deciding what rights we American women will have? Well, sadly, ad nauseum, and once again, what we’ve got is no woman sitting at the decision-making table.
Fordham University prohibits the prescription of contraception at its health centers and the distribution of condoms on campus though many students aren’t aware of that until they’ve paid for the school’s insurance or visited the health center. Many are denied birth control even when facing health risks. This week, law students at the Catholic school are taking matters into their own hands by organizing a clinic just off-campus.
The right of individuals to act on their religious beliefs should trump the right of institutions to enforce theirs on individuals. Introducing financial pressure on women to avoid contraception by refusing to cover birth control should be considered a form of religious discrimination.
The President seems unaware of the fact that Catholics who matter have disagreed with the Vatican’s current prohibition on contraception. Catholics, including institutions within the Catholic community, are free to follow their conscience on contraception. It is not up to the Obama administration to decide what action is more “Catholic” on the matter of contraception.
A broad religious exemption for contraceptive coverage would go too far, depriving millions of women of an important health benefit. Instead of expanding exemptions, we should be expanding access to affordable care.
Women’s groups working to save coverage of women’s health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay. The reason? The President thinks he “owes” the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.