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Judge Calls Obama Administration Position a “Charade” in Blocking Morning After Pill May 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Women.
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Partnership for Civil Justice

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Edward R. Korman heard arguments regarding the Obama administration’s Motion to Stay his Order from April 5, 2013, requiring that emergency contraception be made available without age and point-of-sale restrictions. Over a two-hour period, Judge Korman made it clear that the government’s position was unjustifiable. Calling the government’s conduct a “charade” the Judge condemned the “political influence” that has caused a “total and complete corruption of the administrative process.”

“As Judge Korman made clear today, the administration’s tactics affect all women but have the greatest negative impact on poor women, young women and African American women, as well as immigrant women. This is politics at its worst and the administration should be ashamed of its duplicitous conduct,” stated Andrea Costello, Senior Staff Attorney at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and counsel for the plaintiffs in the litigation.

“President Obama sought to sacrifice the reproductive rights of women of all ages at the altar of his political strategy,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “He wants to placate the political right wing at the expense of the health needs and reproductive rights of women. It is as plain as day that the Obama administration has used deception and distraction as a tactic to avoid complying with the Court Order to make the Morning After Pill available without age restriction or identification barriers.”

The Court indicated that it would issue a ruling on the government’s motion by the end of the week.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) represents the plaintiffs, grassroots feminists activists with National Women’s Liberation (NWL) and 15-year-old Anaya Kelly in Tummino v. Hamburg. The lawsuit was filed along with the Center for Reproductive Rights and Southern Legal Counsel against the Food and Drug administration and Health and Human Services.

On April 5, the Court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor that there was no scientific basis for the Obama administration to continue to restrict access to emergency contraception. Judge Korman ordered that it be made available to women and girls “without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions within thirty days.” The Court found that the FDA had improperly restricted this safe and effective contraceptive after “political interference” from the White House, and had done so against the medical and scientific evidence recommending the drug be made readily available.

Instead of complying with the Court’s Order, the government announced last Tuesday that it would force all women and girls to present government-issued ID to store clerks in order to obtain emergency contraceptives, and that it would continue to deprive over-the-counter access to young teenagers. The next day, Wednesday, the government announced it was appealing the decision and that it was seeking a stay of the order pending appeal.

Originally published by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

They Are Coming for Your Birth Control: Condoms are “Murder” and Contraception is “Rape” November 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
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Photo: 100 Red Flags.

by Robin Marty, Senior Political Reporter, RH Reality Check

November 16, 2012 – 10:00am (Print)

Note: Think that anti-choice politicians and activists aren’t trying to outlaw contraception?  Think again.  Follow along in an ongoing series that proves beyond a doubt that they really are coming for your birth control.

How do you make an extreme anti-choice advocate angry? Suggest that not being forced to have one child after another after another after another might be a positive goal toward which to work.

Human Life International is aghast at the idea that global groups might think it would be beneficial to both women and their families that they have some control over when they get pregnant, spacing children far enough apart to be able to recover physically between births and actually care for the children that they give birth to. In fact, the idea is so upsetting, they are up at arms with the assumption that their tax dollars might somehow go to fund this — despite the fact that it would save money in additional medical costs.

Via LifesiteNews:

Declaring birth control a right means “everyone else must pay for…the new right” Clowes told LifeSiteNews, “even if those forced to pay for it may object to it on moral grounds. This violates the more basic human right of freedom of conscience, which has for some time now been dispensed with by UN ‘human rights’ champions.”

The UNFPA estimates “222 million women have an unmet need for contraception” and that providing this “need” will cost $4.1 billion.

Providing such funds, the report states, “would save approximately $5.7 billion in maternal and newborn health services” – an argument similar to that made by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the United States.

The article claims that IUDs and hormonal contraception both work to keep fertilized eggs from implanting, causing “abortions.” But even more interesting is the comments, where even barrier methods of contraception is considered “murder” of children. As one commenter stated, condom use is “murder in potential as much as a conceiveved [sic] fetus is human life in potential.”

The answer to avoiding all murder is still the same: sex only in marriage, and while using natural family planning. Anything else is “rape.”

Yes, you heard me, they are redefining rape again.

For those having sexual relations within natural marriage and want to regulate births, there is natural family planning. Those having sex outside of marriage, be prepared for an unfulfilled life where sexual intimacy is surrounded by unnatural, unreliable, and deadly methods of birth control and is typically an expression of consensual, mutual objectification- which, for all intents and purposes is a form of rape.

The only thing seem to enjoy more than defining rape? Apparently, coming up with new reasons to come for your birth control, of course.

Follow Robin Marty on Twitter, @robinmarty

Not Up For Debate: Morally Opposed to Antibiotics April 27, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
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04.27.12 – 2:02 PM, www.commondreams.org

VISIT WWW.NOTUPFORDEBATE.ORG, sign the petition.  Video and a fact sheet on “Pharmacy Refusals.”

by Abby Zimet

The National Women’s Law Center has launched a Not Up for Debate campaign against the “conscience clauses” in pending legislation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control if they deem it immoral, a slippery slope if ever there was one, especially in small or college towns.

 

 

Honduras is just days away from approving an extremist law that would put teenagers in prison April 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Honduras, Latin America, Women.
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Dear friends,


The Honduran Congress is about to vote on a proposal that would send women to jail if they use the morning-after pill — even for victims of sexual assault. But the President of the Congress can stop this. He’s concerned about his international image and his future in politics, so our massive outcry can shame him and stop this attack on women.

Honduras is just days away from approving an extremist law that would put teenagers in prison for using the morning-after pill, even if they’ve just been raped. But we can stop this law and ensure women have the chance to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Some Congress members agree that this law — which would also jail doctors or anyone who sells the pill — is excessive, but they are bowing to the powerful religious lobby that wrongly claims the morning-after pill constitutes an abortion. Only the head of the Congress, who wants to run for the Presidency and cares about his reputation abroad, can stop this. If we pressure him now we can shelve this reactionary law.


The vote could happen any day — let’s show Honduras that the world won’t stand by as it jails women for preventing pregnancy even after sexual violence. Sign the urgent petition calling on the President of the Honduran Congress to stand up for women’s rights. Avaaz will work with local women’s groups to personally deliver our outcry:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_prison_for_contraception_global/?vl
A few countries, including Honduras, have banned the emergency contraceptive pill, which delays ovulation and prevents pregnancy — like ordinary birth control pills. But if this new bill passes, Honduras will be the only state in the world to punish the use or sale of emergency contraception with a jail term. Anyone — teenagers, rape victims, doctors — convicted of selling or using the morning-after pill could end up behind bars, in flagrant contravention of World Health Organisation guidelines.
Latin America already has too many tough laws which restrict women’s reproductive rights. The Honduras Congress first passed this draconian measure in April 2009, but just a month later then-President José Manuel Zelaya bowed to pressure from campaigners and vetoed it. Then Zelaya was removed in a coup, and the new regime has taken a sledgehammer to the country’s judicial processes and forced the bill back to a vote.
Time is short, but we can stop this awful proposal in its tracks. Congress has the final vote on the matter and the government doesn’t want to risk its already fragile global reputation. Let’s tell the President of the Congress not to make Honduras the region’s most repressive country against women. Sign this urgent petition now:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_prison_for_contraception_global/?vl
Emergency contraception is vital for women everywhere, but especially where sexual violence against women is rampant, unplanned pregnancy rates are high and access to regular birth control is limited. Let’s stand with the women of Honduras and help them stop this bill.
With hope and determination,
Alex, Laura, Dalia, Alice, Emma, Ricken, Maria Paz, David and the whole Avaaz team
More Information:
Honduras Supreme Court upholds absolute ban on emergency contraception (ReproRights): http://reproductiverights.org/en/press-room/honduras-supreme-court-upholds-absolute-ban-on-emergency-contraception-opens-door-to-crim
Honduras, most sweeping ban on emergency contraception anywhere (RH Reality Check): http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/02/14/honduran-supreme-court-upholds-complete-ban-on-emergency-contraception-0
Women’s rights under attack with Honduran coup (LatinoPolitics): http://latinopoliticsblog.com/2009/11/16/women%E2%80%99s-rights-reproductive-freedoms-under-attack-with-honduran-coup/
The legal status of emergency contraception in Latin America (Hevia M.): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22088410
The prohibition of emergency contraception in Honduras is inadmissible (WLW): http://www.womenslinkworldwide.org/wlw/new.php?modo=detalle_prensa&dc=163&lang=en
Emergency Contraception in theAmericas (Pan American Health Organization): http://www.paho.org/english/ad/ge/emergencycontraception.PDF

Trust the Experts On Women’s Health, Because Middle-Aged Men Know the Most About Everyting March 2, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
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by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org, March 1, 2012

 

The Senate killed the Blunt amendment today that would have allowed employers to opt out of healthcare coverage that violates their “moral beliefs” – though not without rhetoric like Orrin Hatch’s, “This is tyranny (and) discrimination masquerading as compassion” – but that’s hardly the end of the GOP war against women. Funny Or Die‘s health experts speak out on the complex subject of lady parts.

18 Comments so far

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Posted by constitutional
Mar 1 2012 – 9:58pm

Drill baby drill, no obortions, no birth control, no education, no food stamps,  just fucking pray! And vote republican of course. If you don’t believe them, just ask them.

Posted by Obedient Servant
Mar 1 2012 – 10:07pm

This video was already featured on CD.

“Women’s Health Experts Speak Out”

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2012/02/29-0

Since we’re repeating ourselves:

It’s funny because it’s true!

I know it’s true, because I’ve read comments by some of these guys in the comments at CD articles that advocate reproductive rights for women, and/or deplore the authoritarian legislative movement to eliminate, or at least minimize, them.

Posted by AD
Mar 1 2012 – 11:08pm

These con servastives are just getting too psychopathic. This shouldn’t be allowed watching for young impressionable children. Somebody has to take a stand.

Posted by plavmar
Mar 1 2012 – 11:05pm

As I said last night (to the consternation of a few), were it not for men we wouldn’t have birth control pills, breast-cancer treatments, hospitals, or even the discipline of gynecology itself.

Rather than bitching and complaining about men, more women (including those of you at CD) should be thanking them and singing their praises.

Posted by Aaronica
Mar 2 2012 – 1:15am

You might actually want to study a bit more about the history of medicine, before you make such a sweeping statement.   It’s a bit like asking others to respect the slave owners because they brought the black people to America…

Posted by plavmar
Mar 2 2012 – 3:44am

With due respect, the pioneers of medicine, as of so many fields, have been men. Consider:

1. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocrates

2. Famous gynecologists: Ernst Ludwig Alfred Hegar, Ralph Pomeroy, Hermann Pfannenstiel, and Alan Guttmacher (google them).

3. Gregory Goodwin Pincus, co-founder of the birth control pill: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Pincus

4. H. Michael Shepard, developer of Herceptin, the breakthrough breast-cancer drug: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._Michael_Shepard

As far as I know, none of these men accomplished what they did through the use of slaves. Their success can be attributed to hard work and good old-fashioned brain power.

Posted by Phantom_
Mar 2 2012 – 8:07am

Exactly, bashing men is sexist and counterproductive.

And you’re correct, men have been on the forefront of not only medicine but all science. In fact, the greatest writers, philosophers, artists and leaders for peace in human history have overwhelmingly been men. Think of Socrates, Da Vinci, Dalton, Shakespeare, Mozart, Wagner, Beethoven, Gandhi, MLK. The list is too long. Not to mention their achievements in sports, the list is even longer.

Posted by PostScarcityAna…
Mar 2 2012 – 9:36am

You and your companion are completely wrong- to use your lazy sophistry it easy to create division where none exists.  Men and women are part and parcel and have achieved everything together- not apart, nor have any of the persons you cite achieved anything on their own.  Every man, including children like you and palavmar, was born and created by a woman- this includes the people on your “list”.  Fuck you.

Posted by Zanrak
Mar 2 2012 – 10:14am

If it were left up to all these inventive men to make babies on their own, there’d be no people in about 100 years…… quite an accomplishment those men would make!  ‘Course, if all the men (except me) went off on this quest to prove their, uh, manhood(?), well,……… Hey ladies: Wuz up?!

Posted by Dogface
Mar 2 2012 – 7:58am

Dear plavmar: Unlike you, I have actually received the Nobel Peace Prize for my analysis of conservative old white men and their sexual mores. I am able to measure from their writings, speech, and abusive rhetoric just what their equipment is like and if and how they can use it. Your communications here tells that me your equipment is very small and most of the time ineffective. You are unsure of your place in life and dealing with the opposite sex completely unmans you, which makes you very angry. You need profession help. Viagra is useless in your case with the diminutive size of your equipment.  Please, get help.

Posted by plavmar
Mar 2 2012 – 9:49am

Makes sense: a Nobel Peace Prize having been given to someone for analyzing “white men and their sexual mores” and maybe even dropping cliches like “please, get help” in public forums.

Posted by ricardohead
Mar 1 2012 – 11:23pm

And what, as a matter of logic, does that have to do with the current attempt to deny these things to women? Looks like you believe that since men gave these things to women, they have the right to take them back. It would be much simpler if we all just went back to the Dark Ages.

Posted by plavmar
Mar 1 2012 – 11:35pm

I never said I agreed with the conservatives pictured in the story above.

All I did was point out that the editors of CD love to slam men. They can’t help themselves. Every other day there’s another silly article about “middle-aged men” this and “white men” that, as if all white men and middle-aged men thought and acted alike. That’s what you call prejudice.

Posted by PostScarcityAna…
Mar 2 2012 – 8:07am

plavmar-Fuck you.  Your childish argument is facile and callous.  In case you missed it- Fuck you.

Posted by pwayne
Mar 2 2012 – 8:41am

Yes, poor beleaguered men.  Imagine if they had the same opportunities as women, or wielded the same power.  Imagine if men ruled the world.  Then women would see that men really do know what’s best for them–especially when it comes to reproductive health.  And the world would never be in the mess it’s in now. Men would never fiddle while Rome burned by, say, making an issue of birth control while the world at large collapsed around their ears.  Well, we can dream, can’t we.

Really, I want to see examples that support your sweeping generalizations about “middle-aged men” and “white men” being criticized as a collective on CD.  Men being criticized specifically for their age and race, not for doing something mind-bogglingly stupid while incidentally being middle-aged or white.  I mean, if you’re going to make those assertions you should provide the examples up front.  Otherwise people might be skeptical.

Posted by textynn
Mar 2 2012 – 12:03am

I can’t believe we are even having this backwards conversation.  I mean really.  I feel like I need to get legal protection against eminent domain for my lady parts.

Posted by ubrew12
Mar 2 2012 – 1:24am

Why couldn’t they have passed it?  I’m an employer and I find it morally objectionable to pay for old people’s various surgeries and medications.  (/sarcasm)

The deep roots of the war on contraception February 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, History, Religion, Right Wing, Women.
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The uproar over Obama’s decision stems from tensions between Democrats and Catholics that date back to FDR and LBJ

By Ellen Chesler, New Deal 2.0
fdr_lbj

    (Credit: Library of Congress/The White House)

This piece originally appeared on New Deal 2.0.

Republicans for Planned Parenthood last week issued a call for nominations for the 2012 Barry Goldwater award, an annual prize awarded to a Republican legislator who has acted to protect women’s health and rights. Past recipients include Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, who this week endorsed President Obama’s solution for insuring full coverage of the cost of contraception without exceptions, even for employees of religiously affiliated institutions. And that may tell us all we need to know about why President Obama has the upper hand in a debate over insurance that congressional Tea Partiers have now widened to include anyone who seeks an exemption.

It’s a long time ago, but it is worth remembering that conservative avatar Goldwater was in his day an outspoken supporter of women’s reproductive freedom — a freethinker who voted his conscience over the protests of Catholic bishops and all others who tried to claim these matters as questions of conscientious liberty and not sensible social policy. With Goldwater on his side, Obama sees a clear opening for skeptics wary of the extremism that has captured Republican hopefuls in thrall to the fundamentalist base that controls the GOP presidential primary today. Holding firm on family planning — even if it means taking on the Catholic hierarchy and other naysayers by offering a technical fix that would have insurers cover costs instead of the churches themselves — is a calculated political strategy by the Obama campaign, not a blunder as it has been characterized by many high powered pundits, including progressives like Mark Shields of PBS and E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post.

Recent public opinion polling on the subject is worth reconsidering. For years, it has been perfectly clear that a substantial majority of Americans see the value of expanding access to contraception and reliable sex education as essential tools to prevent unwanted pregnancy and abortion and to help women balance the competing demands of work and family. But unlike a zealous minority on the other side, these moderates have not necessarily privileged these social concerns over important questions of economics or national security that mattered more to them at election time.

That’s what seems to be changing. With his now-famous “nope, zero” response last spring, President Obama simply shut down Republicans in Congress who wanted to defund family planning as part of a deal to reduce the federal deficit. The action elicited a sudden surge in his popularity, especially in the highly contested demographic of women voters between the ages of 30 and 49 who voted for him in 2008 but wound up frustrated by failed promises and disappointing economic policies. Campaign polling has since uncovered a big opening for Obama with this group because they are furious over Republican social extremism. An astonishing 80 percent of them disapproved of congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood last spring. Polling among Catholics in response to last week’s controversy shows identical patterns, with 57 percent overall supporting the Obama “compromise” to ensure full coverage of contraception, according to reporting by Joe Conason in The National Memo, and cross-tabs demonstrating much higher margins of support from Catholic women, Latinos, and independent Catholic voters — all prime Obama election targets.

If the numbers are so persuasive, why then have Republican conservatives strayed so far from the greater tolerance of the Goldwater age? Why have they allowed the family planning issue to tie their candidates up in knots in 2012? The answer is in just how outsized the influence of a minority viewpoint can be on a political party, so long as it represents the base of that party’s support.

A bit of history going all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal is instructive. Back then, birth control was still illegal in this country, still defined as obscene under federal statutes that remained as a legacy of the Victorian era, even though many states had reformed local laws and were allowing physicians to prescribe contraception to married women with broadly defined “medical” reasons to plan and space their childbearing.

The movement’s pioneer, Margaret Sanger, went to Washington during the Great Depression, anticipating that Franklin Roosevelt, whose wife Eleanor was her friend and neighbor in New York, would address the problem and incorporate a public subsidy of contraception for poor women into the safety net the New Deal was constructing. What Sanger failed to anticipate, however, was the force of the opposition this idea would continue to generate from the coalition of religious conservatives, including urban Catholics and rural fundamentalist Protestants who held Roosevelt Democrats captive, much as they have today captured the GOP. It was Catholic priests, and not the still slightly scandalous friend of the First Lady, who wound up having tea at the Roosevelt White House.

The U.S. government would not overcome moral and religious objections until the Supreme Court protected contraceptive use under the privacy doctrine created in 1965 under Griswold v. Connecticut. That freed President Lyndon Johnson to incorporate family planning programs into the country’s international development programs and into anti-poverty efforts at home. As a Democrat still especially dependent on Catholic votes, however, Johnson only agreed to act once he had the strong bipartisan support of his arch rival Barry Goldwater’s endorsement and also the intense loyalty and deft maneuvering of Republican moderates like Robert Packwood of Oregon in the Senate. Packwood, in turn, worked alongside Ohio’s Robert Taft, Jr. in the House and a newcomer from Texas by the name of George H. W. Bush. Bush would remain a staunch advocate of reproductive freedom for women until political considerations during the 1980 presidential elections, when he was on the ticket with Ronald Reagan, accounted for one of the most dramatic and cynical public policy reversals in modern American politics.

Reagan had supported California’s liberal policies on contraception and abortion as governor, and Bush as Richard Nixon’s Ambassador to the United Nations had helped shape the UN’s population programs. But Republican operatives in 1980 saw a potential fissure in the traditional New Deal coalition among Catholics uncomfortable with the new legitimacy given to abortion after Roe v. Wade and white southern Christians being lured away from the Democrats around the issue of affirmative action and other racial preferences. Opposition to abortion instantly became a GOP litmus test, and both presidential hopefuls officially changed stripes.

Fast forward to 1992 and the election of Bill Clinton as America’s first pro-choice president, coupled with the Supreme Court’s crafting of a compromise decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that put some limits on access to abortion but essentially preserved the core privacy doctrine of Roe v. Wade. The perceived double threat of these political and judicial developments unleashed a new and even more powerful conservative backlash that took aim not only at abortion, but at contraception and sex education as well.

Exploiting inevitable tensions in the wake of profound social and economic changes occurring across the country as the result of altered gender roles and expectations — changes symbolized and made all the more palpable by Hillary Clinton’s activist role as First Lady — conservatives, with the support of powerful right-wing foundations and think tanks, poured millions of dollars into research and propaganda promoting family values and demonizing reproductive freedom, including emotional television ads that ran for years on major media outlets. A relentless stigmatizing of abortion, along with campaigns of intimidation and outright violence against Planned Parenthood and other providers, had a chilling effect on politicians generally shy of social controversy. And Bill Clinton’s vulnerability to charges of sexual misconduct left his administration and his party all the more defensive.

Since the welfare reform legislation of 1996, aptly labeled a “Personal Responsibility Act,” not only has access to abortion been curtailed, but funds for family planning programs at home and abroad have been capped. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated to the teaching of sexual abstinence, rather than more comprehensive approaches to sex education. Just as tragically, U.S. programs addressing the crisis of HIV/AIDS — admirably expanded during the presidency of George W. Bush — were nonetheless made to counsel abstinence and oppose the use of condoms and other safe sex strategies, leaving women and young people all the more vulnerable to the ravages of the epidemic.

Empirically grounded studies over and over again undermined the efficacy of these approaches, which also flew in the face of mainstream American viewpoints and basic common sense. With Barack Obama’s election they have largely been revoked, enflaming the conservative base that put them in place and has lived off the salaries supported by government funding for faith-based social policy.

Even more disheartening to conservative true believers is the promise that the Affordable Care Act will vastly expand access to contraception by providing insurance coverage for oral contraceptives. This guarantee, endorsed by all mainstream health advocates, also includes emergency contraception, popularly known as the morning-after pill, that holds the promise of further reducing unwanted pregnancy and abortion and was meant to offer common ground in an abortion debate long defined by a clash of absolutes. The strong dose of ordinary hormones in emergency contraception act primarily by preventing fertilization, just like daily contraceptive pills, but in rare instances may also disable a fertilized egg from implanting by weakening the uterine lining that it needs for sustenance, causing opponents to vilify it as an abortifacient.

Supporting the Obama policy changes, on the other hand, is a new generation of progressive activists in reproductive health and rights organizations, energized by the intensity of the assaults against them, and now well-armed to educate and activate their own supporters by using traditional grassroots strategies and more sophisticated social networking. No institution has been more important in this effort than Planned Parenthood, with its vast networks of affiliates and supporters in every state, millions more supporters online, and a powerful national political and advocacy operation based in Washington D.C. that has been put to use to great effect in recent months.

The strength of the Planned Parenthood brand, coupled with the organization’s demonstrated ability to rally hundreds of thousands of supporters when it is attacked, has helped overcome traditional political reticence on reproductive justice issues. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is already out with a strong new appeal warning politicians that women are watching. “Enough is enough. Back off on birth control,” is the new advocacy mantra.

Mindful of the numbers — and with the added ballast of what now amounts to a daily drumbeat of progressive television talk and comedy that delights in pillorying Republican prudery — Democrats are intensifying their resolve to take on this fight. Two things we can be sure of: Whoever emerges from the bloodbath of the GOP contest will try and backtrack from the birth control extremism of the primary. And Obama supporters, backed up by the advocacy community, will in turn stand ready to pounce on this inevitable flip-flopping.

Both sides may well summon the spirit and words of Barry Goldwater, who cautioned against allowing faith-based extremism to gain control of the Republican Party. “Politics and governing demand compromise,” he told John Dean, who reports on the conversation in his 2006 book, “Conservatives Without Conscience.”But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know. I’ve tried to deal with them.”

Ellen Chesler is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and author of “Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America.”   More Ellen Chesler

Obama/Catholic Contraception Controversy Boils Down to Workers’ Rights February 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Labor, Women.
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Roger’s note: One more movement in the direction of establishing the American theocracy.
Published on Saturday, February 11, 2012 by In These Times

by  Roger Bybee

The great new religious battle over the proposed new federal rule requiring contraception coverage for women actually boils down to the basic precept that worker rights apply across all of society, including within religious institutions. But it also reveals the political machinations of the right, the suspect motives of the Catholic bishops and another crucial weakness in the much heralded Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act passed by the Democrats and signed by President Obama two years ago.

First, it is striking how America’s all-male Catholic hierarchy has seemingly colluded with Republicans in miraculously conceiving this issue as a potential “wedge” issue to mobilize blue-collar Catholics against President Obama and the Democrats.

Second, it is almost amusing to see bishops, now pretending to launch a last-ditch effort to prevent a sudden and unique incursion by the Obama administration against the freedom to practice their religion. The Catholic hierarchy has decisively “lost the war at home “ already, as Gail Collins notes, but is choosing to pick a political fight. The majority of Catholic women use birth control. Federal rules required contraception’s inclusion for more than a decade, as Daily Kos reports:

In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today.

With more than half the states also requiring insurers to include contraception in women’s health care packages, Catholic universities, schools and hospitals are obligated to provide birth-control services to their employees. (Most states have an exemption for churches.)

Further, Catholic doctrine is trumped by the Constitutional principle that members of all faiths must obey the law. Noted attorney David Boise explains that freedom of religion as outlined in the Constitution is quite different from the bishops’ version:

Everybody is free to exercise the religion that they choose. [But] there isn`t anything in the Constitution that says an employer, regardless of whether you are a church employer or not, isn`t subject to the same rules as any other employer.

The fundamental point is underscored in this exchange between Boise and his MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell:

O`DONNELL: So, this is just simple labor law. …Labor [law] requires certain conditions in the work place and so forth. This is one of those.

BOIES: And tax law and workman’s comp law. I mean, there are all sorts of laws that apply to every employer in this country, and you don`t exempt religious employers just because their religion. You are not asking anybody in the Catholic Church or any other church to do anything other than simply comply with a normal law that every employer has to comply with.

Employers who provide health insurance are currently required in 28 states to provide contraceptive services and other reproductive care as part of a strategy of preventive care, which coincides with the conclusions reached by the medical experts consulted in writing the Affordable Care Act.

But the contrived issue of contraception is being perceived by the Republicans as a chance to split working-class Catholics voters from Barack Obama.

It appears to be a textbook case of the Right developing what Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?, diagnosed astutely as an “election-season” issue. The Republicans have been immensely creative in inflating issues like gay marriage and gun rights to immense proportions to attract the votes of working-class and low-income voters, facilitated by the frequent Democratic failure to tenaciously push economic justice with the same level of conviction shown by the Right.

For the Republicans and the Right, the notion of including contraception as a standard part of women’s health insurance offers yet another chance to demonize Obama for “overt hostility to faith,” according to Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum. Pulling out all the stops, Santorum even raised the specter of Obama unleashing savage anti-religious forces that would literally re-introduce the “guillotine” of the French Revolution for the faithful and patriotic.

For the Catholic bishops, this conflict re-ignites their hope of rolling back contraceptive rights, established in a 1965 Supreme Court decision, and also trying to further shrink abortion rights. While the strongly-held sentiment of Americans for contraceptive rights is obvious, the Catholic leaders are trying to regain lost ground by lining up with a retrograde movement. As journalist Barbara Miner observed five years ago:

The movement against birth control has moved beyond the fringe. Across the country, many pharmacists won’t fill birth control prescriptions, some hospital emergency rooms refuse to dispense emergency contraception and some state legislatures are cutting funds for family planning.

The Catholic bishops hope somehow to add fuel to this movement and thus turn the clock back a century or two, with this anti-contraception push being wrapped up with anti-abortion rules in the name of protecting “religious freedom.” Feminists like Barbara Miner and Katha Pollitt are appalled by this campaign. As Miner told In These Times,

The medical community accepts that contraception is an integral part of medical care for women. If the Catholic Church and its institutions are serious about promoting healthcare, they should follow the best practices and give their employees the best quality care, and that includes contraception.

For the Republicans, it also provides another chance to castigate Obama’s healthcare plan, which they previously stigmatized with preposterous lies about creating “death panels” and staging “a government takeover of one-sixth of the economy.”

But we must recognize that the Republicans would have had no opportunity to raise the issue if America had a single-payer healthcasre system instead of the current employer-based structure.

Workers would thereby have a standard package of benefits that would not be tied to their employers’ beliefs and they could choose their own doctors and hospitals.

Instead, the Affordable Care Act retains citizens’ dependence on their employers choices, opening the door for the Catholic bishops to seek to dictate women’s options. The ACA also enshrines and subsidizes the insurance corporations that maximize profits by minimizing care, as well as still leaving out 30 million Americans from health coverage, as O’Donnell drove home emphatically.

Reflecting on the ACA’s flaw that allows the Right and the Catholic bishops to attack women’s right to contraceptive care, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) points out

We`d be better off if we had a single-payer health care system where you didn`t have employers involved.

A more recent struggle offers hope of the public rallying behind women’s reproductive rights, “I think we can learn from the way that people rallied behind Planned Parenthood when the Susan G. Komen Foundation tried to cut off their funding,” Miner says.

© 2012 In These Times

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Roger Bybee

Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and progressive publicity consultant whose work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites, including Z magazine, Common Dreams, Dollars & Sense, Yes!, The Progressive, Multinational Monitor, The American Prospect and Foreign Policy in Focus.

 

 

 

 

19 Comments so far

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Posted by NC-Tom
Feb 11 2012 – 9:54am

So we have an organization that has sheltered child abusing priests, and actually moved them around from parish to parish thus enabling the activity.  Add to that their silence over the war mongering activity of the US.  For example, how many late term unborn babies have been killed by the US military?  Where is their outrage over that?

Now they become holier than thou over birth control.  WTF?!

Like George Carlin said: “When it comes to BULLSHIT…BIG-TIME, MAJOR LEAGUE BULLSHIT… you have to stand IN AWE, IN AWE of the all time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion.

Posted by damnliberal
Feb 11 2012 – 10:01am

There is a difference between the parties that have a chance to win the White House. Living in Michigan I can vote for the nutty Ron Paul because he understands how crazy our foreign policy is, and is against the war on drugs. Michigan hates Romney because he was against saving the American auto industry.

Posted by Trylon
Feb 11 2012 – 10:22am

There are two kinds of people in this world: 1) those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world, 2) those who don’t.

This comes to mind when I read a sentence like =contraception coverage for women actually boils down to the basic precept that worker rights apply across all of society, including within religious institutions=.

The issue under contention has more facets than a dodecahedron constructed of mirrors. Each facet boils down to some intensely held belief.

Mine is that this issue should not exist in the first place. Human social contract should provide health care from the aggregate population covered, covering the universe of members, and paid for by the aggregate or gross national product. The insurance industry should be kept at bay from health care by sharpened bayonets, or canisters of tear gas – whatever the hell it takes to make them keep their capitalist peckers in their underpants.

I’m sick and tired of hearing the phrase: “I’m not going to pay for someone’s this or that which is against my morality.”  History shows moralists are equally obnoxious, even murderous, when no financial burden upon them is involved. “You will live in my theocracy and obey my God without complaint or rebellion, or I’ll effing kill you.”

Don’t ever say that to me. Don’t ever say that to me. Trylon

Posted by gardenernorcal
Feb 11 2012 – 10:41am

I agree.  If we had nationalized health care.  The same services would be provided to everyone for the same contribution.  It would be a personal choice if you chose to partake of something that was contrary to your personal religion.  It wouldn’t be a church telling everyone else what they would or wouldn’t be willing to pay for. Or our government exempting some and not exempting others based on a “religious test”.

Posted by Rainborowe
Feb 11 2012 – 2:29pm

If we ever get an administration courageous enough to attempt to pass a national health service law, I’m sure the RC bishops would be right onto that, too.  But what really bugs me about this latest escapade is that those bishops objecting to ObamaCare had no problem demanding that RC women be excluded from participating in that part of it–whether they wanted to or not.  It’s as though Eliot Ness had taken to raiding the churches and smashing their bottles of communion wine.  Imagine the howl if that had happened.

Posted by Thalidomide
Feb 11 2012 – 10:57am

The fact that the corrupt pro-pedophile leadership of this vatican cult still has political power in the United States is absurd. They have proven themselves to be totally immoral and their hatred of women is legendary. 98 percent of catholic women don’t care what they think so I assume their support is coming from older men who can’t gey pregnant so the hell with them.

Posted by ThomasMarx
Feb 11 2012 – 11:10am

Well, it sure comes as a surprise to me that workers have rights in the greatest democracy and freest country that ever existed in the history of the universe.

Do they really have rights?  That is good news to me. TM

Posted by dkshaw
Feb 11 2012 – 11:31am

What a tempest in a teapot. Bibi and Barky are champing at the bit to begin World War 3, and the media gives us condoms and birth control pills versus religious freedom.

Besides…

Hey! Ratzinger! There are 7 billion people on the planet now. How many more do you want? Would another 7 billion do it for you? Another 14 billion? 21 billion? Please. Give us a number that will satisfy you so that your “flock” may then be allowed to use birth control.

Posted by pjd412
Feb 11 2012 – 1:16pm

Actually, the insurance coverage is only for prescription or physician-installed contraceptives.  Non prescription contraceptives (condoms) were never covered.

You can calm down a bit about the contraceptive issue.  Catholics worldwide ignore the hoary old “contraceptives are sinful” .  The countries with some of the lowest fertility rates and population declines – Spain, Southern Germany, Italy, probably even Ireland, are Catholic countries.  In the US, the largest family sizes are in the Protestant-dominant south, and the smallest, in the Catholic dominated north.  The countries with the highest fertility rates are Muslim countries.  Muslims have no objection to birth control.

Fertility rates and population growth have nothing to do with availability of contraception, becasue contraception is already available everywhere, nor religion.  They have to do with standard of living.  Having a large family is a perfectly rational social and economic decision for a poor family in an peasant (or even not-so peasant) agrarian culture, and this agrarian tradition, tends to persist, disfunctionally, for a few generations after the rural poor move to the cities.  But it always does die out, and replacement level or lower birth rates are achieved once living standard is improved.  This (along with China’s one child law) is why population is stabilizing on its own and nobody knowledgeable about the issues considers population to be a problem.   The problem is the distribution of wealth, and disproportionate planetary environmental impacts among the population, not the population.  Throw you old yellowed copies of Ehrlich away.

Posted by Rainborowe
Feb 11 2012 – 2:37pm

I think you misunderstand the source of people’s anger.  It isn’t that Roman Catholic women are being denied birth control; it’s that the president of the USA rolled over and did what the RC bishops demanded in denying RC women the same coverage under his health plan that all other women got.  I’m sure many people object to various provisions of the plan, but they don’t get to call the shots on other people’s coverages.

Posted by WoodGas
Feb 11 2012 – 11:59am

Maybe I’m missing something here. Is anyone being required, as a condition of employment, to USE birth control? While there are situations where I think contraception should be mandatory, (methamthetamine use for one) there doesn’t seem to be any personal use requirement involved here, where does infringement of rights come into this?  “Just say no”

Posted by Stone
Feb 11 2012 – 12:53pm

It is not a workers right to destroy life.  Life is the superior value.

Posted by shadre
Feb 11 2012 – 2:18pm

Sorry, but to me, your statement is a bit disingenuous, considering that ALL life is “the superior value (sacred, if you belief in a Creator), and humankind has lived to destroy life from the time we came to be on this planet.

Posted by conscience
Feb 11 2012 – 2:36pm

And male supremacists get to decide that a woman’s life is less superior to sperm or a fertilized egg — ?

Those same male supremacists who have oppressed women and children for 2,000 years?

You can embrace democracy and equality for all, or you can follow male-supremacists.   Democracy is superior to male-supremacy. Equality for all is superior to male supremacy.  It’s your choice.

Posted by pjd412
Feb 11 2012 – 12:55pm

My understanding of this agreement is that the Catholic institution will not have to list contraception on their employee insurance benefit booklets, but prescription contraception will still be covered “on the sly”.  So, theoretically, the Catholic employer group plan rates will be a bit lower, but the premium payers in general will pay a bit more to cover the Catholic cleric’s or administrator’s religious freedom.  But the amount is probably tiny and completely buried by other cost increases in the dysfunctional US health care system,  So I really can’t get too indignant about it.  Give them their religious freedom and get back to more important issues like health care for all regardless of condition of employment.

Posted by Rainborowe
Feb 11 2012 – 2:47pm

It is not the women who are demanding to have this benefit denied them, it it?    And any women who reject birth control are free to avoid using it.  So where’s the “religious freedom” in allowing a bunch of male priests to exclude women of their faith from getting a benefit open to all other women?

Posted by Samalabear
Feb 11 2012 – 1:21pm

Lawrence O’Donnell expands the next night on this mess:

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-last-word/46321122#null

Nice little rant here.

And then here’s a story that was on Marketplace that talks about the impact of the Catholic Church when it comes to contraception in countries that are vulnerable to the man-made rules of the Catholic Church:

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/food-9-billion/philippines-too-many-mouths

Posted by shadre
Feb 11 2012 – 2:28pm

I think it’s high time these few churches who’re trying to control the whole government, and people not even of their faiths, should have to start paying taxes.

Oh, that’s right – the largest of them doing the most to take control has never even been a citizen of this country.  We could at least tax their churches that are here though.

Posted by David McConnell
Feb 11 2012 – 2:34pm

What I see here is a classic example of we want our rights, but you can’t have yours.  You can’t stand the concept of not working for an employer who’s beliefs don’t mirror your own.  You think you have the right to walk into any place of employment and force your beliefs upon your employer.  Deal with it.  No church should be forced to hire employees who’s beliefs contradict their’s.  Why would you even want to work in that environment, unless it was to cause problems?  I detest organized religion, but this country was founded on some basic rights and you want to take that away.

Obama’s woman problem December 8, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Women.
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Thursday, Dec 8, 2011 4:58 PM 22:37:36 EST, www.salon.com

The president shamefully uses his daughters to justify limiting the healthcare options of America’s young women

obama knows best

     (Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster/Salon)

When will Barack Obama learn how to talk thoughtfully about women, women’s health and women’s rights?

Apparently, not today.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unexpectedly overruled the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation that emergency contraception be sold on drugstore shelves and made available without a prescription to women under the age of 17. The move came as a surprise blow to healthcare and women’s rights activists, the kinds of people regularly counted as supporters of the Obama administration.

Today, Obama doubled down on his disregard for the concerns of these groups, claiming that while Sebelius made her decision without his counsel, he agreed with it. Obama pooh-poohed the findings of the FDA, which had concluded that Plan B pills posed no medical hazard and supported Sebelius’ official argument, citing a lack of confidence that “a 10-year-old or 11-year-old going to a drugstore would be able to, alongside bubble gum or batteries, be able to buy a medication that potentially if not used properly can have an adverse effect.” The logic expressed today by the president, and yesterday by Sebelius, is ludicrous: Medicines like Tylenol – which have been proven to have adverse effects in high doses – are available by the truckload on drugstore shelves, at prices far cheaper than the $30 to $50 it would cost a preteen to purchase just one dose of Plan B, let alone go wild with it.

But part of what was most disturbing about Obama’s statement was his reliance on language that reveals his paternalistic approach to women and their health.

“As the father of two daughters,” Obama told reporters, “I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”

First of all, the president was not talking about “various rules.” He was supporting a very specific rule, one that prevents young women from easily obtaining a drug that can help them control their reproductive lives, at an age when their economic, educational, familial and professional futures are perhaps most at risk of being derailed by an unplanned pregnancy. “As the father of two daughters,” Obama might want to reconsider his position on preventing young women from being able to exercise this form of responsibility over their own bodies and lives.

But as an American, I think it is important for my president not to turn to paternalistic claptrap and enfeebling references to the imagined ineptitude and irresponsibility of his daughters – and young women around the country – to justify a curtailment of access to medically safe contraceptives. The notion that in aggressively conscribing women’s abilities to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancy Obama is just laying down some Olde Fashioned Dad Sense diminishes an issue of gender equality, sexual health and medical access. Recasting this debate as an episode of “Father Knows Best” reaffirms hoary attitudes about young women and sex that had their repressive heyday in the era whence that program sprang.

A question of who should be allowed access to a safe form of contraception is at its root a question of how badly we want to, or believe that we can, police young women’s sexuality. When Obama is talking about his daughters, we know he’s not really basing his opinion on an anxiety that they might suffer the adverse effects of drinking a whole jug of Pepto-Bismol or swallowing 50 Advil, things that any 11-year-old who walks into a CVS with a wad of cash could theoretically do. When he says that he wants to “apply common sense” to questions of young women’s access to emergency contraception, he is telegraphing his discomfort with the idea of young women’s sexual agency, or more simply, with the idea of them having sex lives at all. This discomfort might be  comprehensible from an emotional, parental point of view. But these are not familial discussions; this is a public-health policy debate, and at a time when “16 and Pregnant” airs on MTV, the fact that a daddy feels funny about his little girls becoming grown-ups has no place in a discussion of healthcare options for America’s young women. It is also nearly impossible to imagine a similar use of language or logic to justify a ban of condom sales.

Moreover, Obama’s invocation of his role as a father is an insult to the commitments and priorities of those on the other side of this issue. Are we to believe that those who support the increased availability of emergency contraception do not have daughters? That if they do, they care less about those daughters than Barack Obama does about his? And that if they do not, they cannot possibly know better than a father of daughters what is best for young women? Why should we be asked to believe that Obama’s paternity imbues him with more moral authority on the subject of women’s health and reproductive lives than the investments of doctors, researchers and advocates who – regardless of their parental status – have dedicated their lives to working on behalf of increased reproductive health options. This line of argument is no better than the Mama Grizzly argument developed by Sarah Palin during 2010′s midterm elections, in which she asserted that her band of super-conservative mothers were qualified for office because “moms just know when there’s something wrong.”

Barack Obama has long had a tin ear for language that has anything to do with women and even more specifically with women’s rights. While on the campaign trail for president in 2008, he waved off a female reporter who asked a question about the future of the auto industry, referring to her diminutively as “sweetie.” The same year, attempting to play both sides on the issue of reproductive freedom, he gave an interview with a religious magazine in which he asserted his support for states’ restrictions on late-term abortions as long as there was an exception for the health of the mother, but added that he didn’t “think that ‘mental distress’ qualifies as the health of the mother.” Attempting to recover from that line and reassert his pro-choice bona fides, Obama later clarified that of course he believed in a medical exemption for “serious clinical mental health diseases,” just not when seeking a late-term abortion is “a matter of feeling blue,” perpetuating a wildly irresponsible vision of the rare and difficult late-term abortion as a moody impulse-buy.

Today also isn’t the first time he’s used references to members of his family to make a larger offensive point about women. Back in 2009, when charges that his officially female-friendly administration included some boys’ club tendencies hit the front of the New York Times, Obama dismissed the claims as “bunk.” Reporter Mark Leibovich noted at the time that the president “often points out that he is surrounded by strong females at home,” an argument that not only mimics an old saw about how being henpecked by women is equivalent to respecting them, but reflects a dynamic as old as patriarchal power itself and sidesteps the question of how strong females are treated at work. In 2010, while appearing on “The View,” Obama made a creaky Take-My-Wife-Please joke about how he wanted to appear on “a show that Michelle actually watched” as opposed to the news shows she usually flips past. The joke being that his missus, the one he met when she mentored him at a high-powered law firm, just doesn’t have a head for news delivered by anyone other than Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

It should no longer come as a surprise that the president of the United States is, on perhaps an unconscious level, an old-school patriarch. What’s startling is the degree to which Obama seems not to have learned from any of his past gaffes, how no one seems to have told him – or told him in a way that he’s absorbed – that the best way to address a question of women’s health and rights is probably not by making it about his role as a father.

This might be an especially valuable chat to have with the president as he moves into 2012 and toward an election in which he is going to be relying on the support of people he has just managed to anger, offend and speak down to — women. The least he could do is learn to address them with respect.

Rebecca Traister
Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of “Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women” (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.More Rebecca Traister

Obama and the Bishops: Is the White House Caving on Birth Control Coverage? November 18, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Women.
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Wednesday 16 November 2011
by: Jodi Jacobson, RH Reality Check                 | Report

Women’s health and rights organization are asking supporters of contraceptive coverage to send a message to the White House.  Planned Parentood’s action is here.

This week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) threw itself a pity party in Baltimore. According to the bishops, their “religious liberty” is threatened unless they are able to ensure that every single person in the United States (well, actually the world) is made to follow Catholic canon law to the letter. According to the New York Times, the bishops are “recasting their opposition” to same-sex marriage, birth control, and other fundamental aspects of public health and human rights, because they view both government and culture as infringing on the church’s rights.

“We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops conference, said in a news conference Monday at the bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore. He added that “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy.”

 

But the sacristy is where the vast majority of Catholics appear to believe the bishops should be focusing their efforts. The Times notes that in light of the ongoing evidence of massive cover-ups by the Vatican and the USCCB of the priest pedophilia scandal, the bishops’ “pronouncements on politics and morality have been met with indifference even by many of their own flock.”

The bishops issue guidelines for Catholic voters every election season, a document known as “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which is distributed in many parishes. But the bishops were informed at their meeting on Monday that a recent study commissioned by Fordham University in New York found that only 16 percent of Catholics had heard of the document, and only 3 percent had read it.

 

Nonetheless, the Bishops believe their own right to practice their religion is threatened by your right to practice yours or to act as a moral agent in your own life. Their freedom of religion is threatened unless they can ensure that all LGBT persons are denied the right to marry or adopt children. It is threatened unless all women are denied the rights to decide whether and when to have children. It is threatened unless a Catholic hospital can let a woman die from complications of pregnancy rather than provide her with or even refer her on an emergency basis for a life-saving abortion. It is threatened unless a two-celled fertilized egg has more rights than the living, breathing woman in whose body it floats.

They are not “free” until you are not free.

And they certainly are not “free” unless women are denied access to affordable birth control.

An integral part of the Affordable Care Act is the new benefit requiring health plans to cover preventive health care, including cancer screenings, immunizations, and birth control, with no co-pays.  Inclusion of these benefits came about through dogged efforts by female legislators, including an amendment authored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), known as the Women’s Health Amendment. The Department of Health and Human Services, tasked with implementing health reform through regulations and oversight, took the advice of an expert panel of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and recommended birth control be covered as a women’s preventive service because it is basic health care, and because it improves health outcomes for women and their families. Research shows that improved access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality among other health benefits. The IOM recommendations are supported by a vast amount of research and affirmed by the World Health Organization, the International College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association among many other medical and public health bodies.

 

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Regulations promulgated by HHS this summer mandate coverage in all employee-based health plans of contraceptive methods without a co-pay. The current provision includes what many already consider to be a sweeping refusal clause, exempting certain religious organizations for which religious values are their primary purpose; that primarily employ persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; that primarily serve persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; and that are nonprofit organizations. The regulations would still require institutions such as Catholic hospitals–for which one assumes the primary purpose is evidence-based health care–and universities (primary purpose, education?) to offer insurance that covers contraception without a co-pay. Nothing (repeat: NOTHING) in this new benefit requires an organization to dispense birth control, or an individual to take it. This is simply a matter of ensuring women have access to affordable preventive care by providing it with no co-pays. For an excellent and thorough review of this issue, read the testimony of Catholics for Choice President Jon O’Brien.

Still, this has so riled the USCCB that Archbishop Timothy Dolan took his lobbying straight to President Obama, with whom he met privately at the White House last week. In what I take to be a somewhat ominous comment, Dolan stated at a news conference that he “found the president of the United States to be very open to the sensitivities of the Catholic community.”

“I left there feeling a bit more at peace about this issue than when I entered.”

By “Catholic community,” Dolan clearly means the USCCB, the Vatican and the male hierarchy, certainly not the community constituted by the people–or the women–of the church.

Word on the street now–through off-the-record conversations with health groups–is that the White House is considering caving on the exemptions for contraceptive coverage.

This would be a grave mistake on Obama’s part.

For women, birth control is about as controversial as toothpaste and as widely used. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2006–2008, 99 percent of ALL women who had ever had sexual intercourse had used at least one method of birth control.  This includes, as O’Brien of Catholics for Choice pointed out, the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women in the US who have used a form of contraception banned by the Vatican.

Moreover, while the most common reason U.S. women use oral contraceptive pills is to prevent pregnancy, 14 percent of pill users—1.5 million women—rely on them exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute called “Beyond Birth Control: The Overlooked Benefits of Oral Contraceptive Pills,” by Rachel K. Jones. More than half (58 percent) of all pill users rely on the method, at least in part, for purposes other than pregnancy prevention–such as reducing cramps or menstrual pain, to help prevent migraines, for treatment of endometriosis—meaning that only 42 percent use the pill exclusively for contraceptive purposes.

The contraceptive coverage provision under health reform is widely-supported by female voters, a critical constituency in the 2012 election. Public polling shows seventy-one percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support covering birth control at no cost.

So caving to the USCCB on something as fundamental to women’s health, lives and pocketbooks as contraception will not sit well with women, as a recent poll by NARAL Pro-Choice America notes.

“There is a group of women who voted for President Obama in 2008 but are not currently supporting him, and these data suggest many of them should be in his camp,” according to Al Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a firm that conducted a recent survey for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Choice provides an opening for President Obama and other Democrats to create a sharp contrast with anti-choice Republicans,” he continued. The “women defectors” are defined as having voted for President Obama in 2008 but are currently not voting for him, weakly supporting him, or holding back from turning out in 2012.

“While the economy is the dominant issue, this survey shows that choice is a stronger, more persuasive issue for bringing key women voters back to President Obama’s camp,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Contraceptive coverage also is an equity issue. As many state contraceptive equity laws make clear and as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled, failing to provide women with coverage for contraception in health plans that otherwise cover prescription drugs and devices is sex discrimination.

State supreme courts in California and New York have both found that contraceptive-equity laws with narrower employer exclusions such as the one put forth by HHS, do not substantially burden a religious belief or practice. In a majority opinion in one of the cases, the justices write:

“[W]hen a religious organization chooses to hire nonbelievers it must, at least to some degree, be prepared to accept neutral regulations imposed to protect those employees’ legitimate interests in doing what their own beliefs permit.”  [Catholic Charities of Albany v. Serio, 859 N.E.2d 459, 468 (N.Y. 2006)].

 

If the requirement for coverage of birth control is weakened, nearly one million people (and their dependents) who work at Catholic hospitals would lose benefits they already have. In addition, the approximately two million students and workers now attending universities that have a religious affiliation would also lose this important benefit.  It would mean a further weakening of women’s health and one more step toward theocracy. And it would raise health care costs and result in more unintended pregnancies.

What the Bishops really want is to strong-arm government into imposing restrictions on people’s choices and lives that they can’t even get Catholics to follow. They want to be able to receive federal funding, federal grants and contracts, get tax breaks and special treatment over other groups for building Catholic hospitals, maintain tax-exempt status while flouting lobbying rules, and play the victim card whenever they can’t avoid laws meant to advance health and human rights.  And they are aided and abetted in their efforts by other far-right my-way-or-the-highway-on-religion organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, as well as a considerable number of GOP and Tea Party members of Congress. New efforts by conservatives to pass the Regulatory Accountability Act, for example, also threaten women’s health.  Nothing drives the patriarchy more batty than the notion of women being anything other than breeding cows.

So it takes some imagination–and I have not mustered anywhere nearly enough–to understand why the Obama Administration would EVEN. THINK. TWICE. about caving to the Bishops. Obama needs women to come out for him in the 2012 election, he campaigned on and promised adherence to science and evidence in the creation of policy, and he promised that under health reform people would not lose benefits they already had, a promise he has already broken once–big time–when it came to women’s health coverage on abortion care.

There is nothing more fundamental to women’s choices than choosing whether, when and with what partner to become pregnant. There is nothing more fundamental to ensuring the best prospects for all children than to work to ensure every child is a wanted child. And there is nothing less controversial for women than birth control.

If the White House does cave to fundamentalist organizations like the USCCB, (led, it should be underscored, by men), it would appear to have an even more fundamental problem with re-electing this President.

[Several calls to the White House on this issue were not returned by time of publication.]

************

Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter: @jljacobson

The War on Contraception Goes Viral May 18, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Women.
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by Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check

May 16, 2011 – 9:06am

As those of us who’ve been following the anti-choice movement for years can attest, the biggest stumbling block for them has been finding a way to make a move towards restricting access to contraception while still trying to keep something like a decent reputation with the public. Attacking sexual liberation and women’s rights has always been at the heart of the anti-choice movement, but in order to sell such a radical agenda as mainstream, they’ve had to make sentimental and often bad faith claims about simply wanting to protect fetal life. While making frowny faces in the direction of pregnant women who want to terminate has been an effective strategy for restricting abortion rights, however, it has its limits when it comes to attacking women’s ability to prevent pregnancy in the first place.

Not that there haven’t been attempts at using “pro-life” arguments to fight not just abortion but contraception. Some anti-choicers have floated the idea that contraception leads to abortion—claiming that women wouldn’t have abortions if they didn’t get it in their silly heads that they should be able to have sex for pleasure instead of procreation. (Never mind that women throughout history have attempted abortion by all sorts of means, whether their cultures had contraception or not.) A slightly more effective argument has been to claim, with no evidence in support, that popular, female-controlled hormonal birth control is the same thing as abortion. This hasn’t done much to convince anyone, but at least establishes a convoluted, disingenuous cover story about embryonic life that anti-choicers can hide behind while they attack contraception. But even then, it has limits, since while the “pill is abortion” argument can be used to attack hormonal contraception, even anti-choicers haven’t been bold enough to claim that condoms or other barrier methods are also abortion.

Then, just this year, it seems that the anti-choice movement came to a nationwide realization: Their past attempts to create some logical-sounding connection between contraception and fetal life were a waste of time and energy. Successful attacks on contraception don’t have to make sense or even look like they kind of sort of make sense if you look at them sideways while ignoring history, science, and true rationality. No, all they have to do is wave their hands around while yelling “abortion” and focus their attacks on those made vulnerable through economic duress, and they would have surprising success at separating women from the means to prevent pregnancy.

True, screaming “abortion” while attacking funding for contraception and other reproductive health services that aren’t abortion didn’t end up as successful as anti-choicers hoped when the Republicans nearly brought the federal government to a shutdown trying to defund Planned Parenthood. But overall, the entire debacle was a success for the anti-choice movement, because by the time it was all over, politicians who want to be viewed as social conservatives realized that it’s no longer enough to be anti-abortion. You must also be opposed to access to contraception for people deemed to be unworthy of sexual autonomy, namely, low-income women and young women.

What this means is that politicians in conservative areas have taken a hard right turn on contraception. The biggest example so far is definitely Indiana, where Gov. Mitch Daniels blew off the “truce” he claimed to support in the culture wars to sign a bill that defunds family planning aid to his state, which will inevitably increase the state’s budget problems in myriad ways. If this were 2010, Daniels probably wouldn’t have done that or even have been put in that situation. In the past few months, however, the last tentacle attached to the concept of attaching anti-choice lies to some semblance of truth has been released, and any politician who doesn’t want to be labeled “pro-abortion” had better start hating on contraception, no matter how many abortions it may prevent.

The pressure to move towards a more radical anti-contraception stance is quickly becoming localized, which was entirely predictable, as conservatives tend to organize on a local and state level far more than liberals do. A reader from Tennessee alerted me to this story about the commissioners at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department in the state suddenly turning on family planning, canceling a half million dollar contract for family planning services in the area on the grounds of “abortion”, even though (say it with me now) none of the funding in question goes to abortion.

The reasoning for this is scattered and nonsensical. The all-male commissioner board claims some times that the problem is that abortions are being performed in the same buildings as contraception is distributed, and some times they claim that contraception is abortion. Because of this ridiculous inability to even pretend like they’re making sense, the board has tabled the debate until this Wednesday, but it’s not looking good for the women of Chattanooga-Hamilton County who rely on subsides to pay for birth control and other forms of non-abortion reproductive health care. The arguments for cutting the funding probably won’t get any more coherent, nor will the politicians pushing them likely bother to do anything crazy like educate themselves on the realities of women’s health care before condemning it all as abortion. They don’t need to anymore; anti-choicers who are calling the shots don’t care what kind of hand-waving you employ, so long as the goal of cutting off women’s access to contraception is achieved.

Unfortunately, barring some miraculous turn of events in the courts that shut this all down, we can probably expect to see more of this on the state and local level in conservative areas. A switch has been flipped in the conservative movement, and it’s not enough anymore to simply oppose abortion rights anymore, but to move even more radically in a direction of denying women any right to control their bodies whatsoever.

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