Womens’ rights advocate Sandra Fluke is calling the Obama administration’s compromise allowing religious institutions an exemption from the Affordable Care Act “another step” in the process of women having easier access to birth control. “It meets the important criteria of women having access to the health care that they need and not infringing on any potential religious concerns,” she told NewsNation’s Tamron Hall.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that employers who wish to be filed under the exception will now need to prove they are non-profits and that religion is a core component of their mission. This reduces the number of requirements employers must meet from four to one. Employees enrolled in these plans are eligible to receive coverage through “separate individual health insurance policies” that won’t increase their premiums.
Last year, Fluke, a recent Georgetown Law School graduate, was criticized by right-wing talk show hosts after she testified in front of House Democrats that health insurance plans should have a mandate to cover contraceptives.
Initial response to the proposal from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was quiet, but The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty released a statement saying:
“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious freedom of millions of Americans. For instance, it does nothing to protect the rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby. The administration obviously realizes that the HHS mandate puts constitutional rights at risk.”
Jindal is among the new class of “realpolitik republicans” - he sees the handwriting on the wall and so tries to triangulate on this issue. If you look close you see that it’s really a no lose for the GOP.
It still allows him to give full bore support to social conservative creationism legislation and anti-abortion legislation while taking the Religious Freedom vs Women’s Rights question that crushed Romney’s chances completely off the table. This is because if birth control does go OTC then insurance won’t cover it and Jindal recognizes that the war on women is losing the GOP votes.
A likely GOP presidential hopeful in 2016, Bobby Jindal has decided to lay some groundwork with a “buck-the-party” marker. The Louisiana governor took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to advocate for over-the-counter birth control.
Though he takes pains to call himself an “unapologetic pro-life Republican,” Jindal says directly that he believes anyone over 18 should be able to buy contraceptives without a prescription.
His advocacy comes after the leading group of OB/GYNs called for over-the-counter birth-control sales last month.
Still, Jindal’s call for “the end of birth-control politics” goes only so far. He makes sure to criticize President Obama’s health care law, writing that “anyone who has a religious objection to contraception should not be forced by government health-care edicts to purchase it for others”—a nod to social conservatives in the Republican base.
I spent most of my time this year advocating for better access to family planning around the world. Early on, I told everybody who would listen that I wanted to help put contraceptives back on top of the global health and development agenda. Visiting women in developing countries, however, I realized that this framing didn’t quite capture my message.
Contraceptives are tools, and the development agenda is an abstract construct. What was missing were human beings, the women across the world who have told me over and over again that having access to birth-control methods that work for them would change their futures. Now I tell people that I want to help put women at the center of global health and development work, and better contraceptives are one of their top priorities. Listening to women shouldn’t still be a revolutionary idea in 2012, but it is.
When I visit family-planning wards at health clinics in African countries, there are always plenty of free condoms available. Condoms are vitally important, especially because they also help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS. But there’s a problem: The overwhelming majority of African women can’t rely on condoms for birth control because their husbands refuse to use them.
In the same way that American women prefer contraceptive pills, which they don’t have to negotiate with their partners, African women favor contraceptive injections over condoms. But because of supply constraints, supply-chain problems, and outdated public policies, these injections are frequently out of stock. To take one example, in Kaduna, Nigeria, a city of some 1.5 million people, there were 226 days last year when not a single public health clinic had injections available.
If you are focused simply on making sure contraceptives are available, you can stockpile condoms and call it a day. But if your goal is helping women build the lives they want for themselves and their families, the bar is higher.
Philippine Roman Catholic Church leaders led a rally Saturday against a proposed law that would provide government funding for contraceptives and introduce reproductive health and sexuality classes in schools.
The House of Representatives is to decide next week whether to end debate on the bill and bring it to a final vote.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Pangasinan province said in a statement read to about 10,000 people at the rally that contraceptives corrupt moral values and promote the view that “babies are a nuisance.”
The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing populations in Asia. President Benigno Aquino III has expressed support for the right to contraception, while the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy opposes artificial birth control.
The U.S. District Court for Colorado on Friday blocked the Obama administration from requiring an air-conditioning company in Colorado to provide no co-pay contraceptives to its employees, as the Affordable Care Act directs.
It was, as Sam Baker points out, the first time a federal court has ruled against that provision of the health-care law.
It’s not yet, however, exactly a victory for the contraceptive mandate’s opponents: The injunction is specific to that one company, and it holds only until the judge can reach a verdict on the case’s merits. Still, it could mark the start of a long period of litigation involving one of the health-care law’s most polarizing provisions.
Hercules v. Sebelius is a case brought by Hercules Industries, a Colorado-based air-conditioning company. The four siblings who own the business say they oppose contraceptives — such medications are not included in their current health coverage plan — and “seek to run Hercules in a manner that reflects their sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
The health-care law’s required coverage of contraceptives without co-pay is slated to come into effect next week, on Aug. 1. Religious institutions that primarily serve individuals of their own faith got a one-year reprieve. Hercules, as an air-conditioning company, did not fall into that category.
Hercules is challenging the birth control mandate as a First Amendment violation, inhibiting its ability to practice religion freely. The company also argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, a law from the 1990s that is meant to afford greater legal protection to religious institutions from federal requirements that “substantially burden” their ability to practice religion.
A few weeks ago, I was rummaging through a storage closet at home when I came across a stamp collection I kept when I was a kid.
I was surprised to see it because I assumed that I had long ago discarded this battered book of postage stamps mainly from the 1960s and `70s. I began leafing through it and almost immediately spotted a U.S. stamp that made me do a double-take. It was an 8-cent stamp from 1972 that depicted a drawing of a typical nuclear family of a mother and father with two children. Across the top were the words “Family Planning.”
Wow. So there was a time when the federal government not only talked about contraceptives as a positive thing but even celebrated them on a postage stamp.
That would never happen now. We’ve been pulled backward to the extent that we’re now having a serious national discussion about to what extent Americans should even have access to birth control. Right-wing religious groups that seek to curtail Americans’ ability to get and use birth control are feeling newly empowered.
In other words, in case you’re wondering, all’s still not quiet on the birth control front.
The Catholic bishops, aided and abetted by their pals in the Religious Right, continue working to deny Americans access to affordable and effective forms of contraceptives. The bishops recently hosted “Fortnight for Freedom,” a two week-long series of rallies and other events around the country designed to press the church’s view that it is being persecuted because the new health care law requires religiously affiliated organizations to contract with insurance companies that will provide no-cost birth control to those who want it.
As Americans United has pointed out several times, houses of worship are exempt from this mandate. The rule covers only institutions like church-run hospitals, colleges and social-service agencies. These entities receive massive amounts of taxpayer support and hire and serve non-Catholics. Thus, they’re open to reasonable forms of regulation.
Melinda Gates speaks to why giving women and girls access to family planning tools and information is the easiest way to allow them the ability to determine their own futures. The London Summit on Family Planning on July 11, 2012 is the opportunity for the world to come together to invest in women and girls by pledging to support family planning for the millions who need and want it.
There are already wingnuts at the youtube page making comments about abortion because they equate all contraceptives and family planning with abortion.
Read the whole article here.
A Senate panel voted Monday to let employers with religious or moral objections refuse to include contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans for their workers.
HB 2625 would repeal a decade-old mandate that says companies that provide coverage must also include contraceptives. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, said the move is necessary to protect freedom.
The measure already has been approved by the House, meaning it needs only approval by the full Senate before going to the governor.
“I believe that we live in America. We don’t live in the Soviet Union,” Lesko said. “And so government shouldn’t be telling employers, Catholic organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something that’s against their moral beliefs.”
The legislation is similar to what some Republicans in Congress have been pushing in their bid to overturn an Obama administration policy requiring contraceptive coverage by employers. That effort has so far been unsuccessful.
The bill cleared the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday by a 6-2 margin.
This comes from the Guttmacher Institute (.pdf file):
In December 2000, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made it clear that an employer’s failure to provide coverage of contraception, when it covers other prescription drugs and preventive care, is a violation of protections against sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; those protections for employees’ benefits include no exemption for religious employers.
In December, a 28-year-old Jewish woman boarded a bus in Israel and was promptly ordered by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man to sit at the back. Tanya Rosenblit refused to sit where she was told (sound like a familiar scenario?)—whereupon her male harasser refused to allow the bus driver to close the doors and take any of the passengers to their desired destinations.
Two weeks later, same thing (more or less) happened again when Doron Matalon, an 18-year-old soldier, took the No. 49A bus after an overnight shift at her Jerusalem base. Upon seeing her at the front of the bus, a member of Haredi, an ultra-Orthodox sect (most of whose adherents refuse to serve in the Israeli military), ordered the weary IDF soldier to move to the back. When she refused, all hell broke loose. Now, the young soldier has told the media, she is no longer willing to ride the bus at all. She is afraid of what will happen when she is seated.
“Until yesterday, I was sure I lived in a free country,” wrote Rosenblit on a news website. “It’s still hard for me to believe that in 2011 there are men who believe they must not sit behind a woman.”
In other words, as Israel’s Rosa Parks discovered, there are men—most often those who describe themselves as devoutly religious—whose demands consistently prevail over the rights of the many.
Last week in Washington, Bishop William Lori, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, speaking on behalf of all Catholic bishops, attempted much the same sort of tactic. Lori told a congressional committee that President Obama’s compromise proposal to require insurance companies to pay for and provide contraception to employees of Catholic universities and hospitals just wouldn’t work, as far as the Catholic Church was concerned.
“Because the costs of providing those services are borne some place,” said the bishop, addressing a panel that included no women witnesses. What the bishop meant was that American citizens, the vast majority of whom use birth control, will, in one way or another, be helping, under Obama’s twist to the new health care plan, to fund free contraception to employees. And that the Catholic Church in the US will do everything in its power to prevent these contraceptives from being made universally available at no cost to women employees because it’s not a big fan of birth control.
In other words, until yesterday I was sure I was living in a free country.
The problem, as I see it, arises not when outrageous countries—Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, Afghanistan, for example—deny, abrogate or reduce the rights of their female citizens in the name of religion. The world is, unhappily, used to this sort of behavior from the men who control not merely the politics of these nations but also the faithful within their borders. We expect it. In fact, there is virtually no separation between faith and politics in most Islamic countries. We have, alas, grown to expect that too.