What They Are Saying About the Birth Control Benefit
On Friday, President Obama announced he would be protecting birth control access for women—no matter where they work. Under the new policy, if a woman works for a religiously affiliated employer who objects to providing birth control services as part of its health plan, the insurance company will be required to offer these services free of charge.
Many (including us) consider this a victory for women, and a clear example of the administration reaffirming its commitment to protecting women’s health. In fact, the decision was so popular, it has garnered support from Republicans and Democrats alike. Even those who had originally objected to the new rule, which would require religiously affiliated institutions to provide birth control coverage without co-pay, found the decision to both protect religious organizations while expanding birth control coverage as broadly as possible.
But as usual, anti-women’s health legislators were less than excited and lined up in droves to mischaracterize the decision and even vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act completely. Below we’ve provided a roundup (good and bad) of what the politicians (who deserve our jeers and cheers) had to say on this important issue.
Despite the fact that the new rule clearly states that religiously affiliated organizations are not required to provide birth control without co-pay, Senator Roy Blunt finds fault: “It’s still clear that President Obama does not understand this isn’t about cost – it’s about who controls the religious views of faith-based institutions.” It’s interesting that Senator Blunt would care about impressing views upon someone else, since he doesn’t seem to mind if any employer impresses its views upon its employees. He’s proposing a new bill that would allow ANY employer to invoke a vague “moral conviction” in order to deny insurance coverage for birth control or broader health services. Coverage could be denied for services needed to treat something as mundane as type 2 diabetes, if the CEO has a “moral objection” to it.
It comes as no surprise that the anti-women’s health legislators in Congress failed to see the discrimination embedded within Senator Blunt’s bill. After all, they didn’t have a problem with women shouldering the burden of up to $600 dollars a year for basic preventive health care like birth control. On CBS’s Face the Nation, Senator Mitch McConnell announced, “[I]f we end up having to try to overcome the president's opposition by legislation, of course, I'd be happy to support it [the Blunt Bill] and intend to support it….But yeah, we'll be voting on that in the Senate. And you can anticipate that that would happen as soon as possible.”
So not only do they want to deny health care to women and have the ability to arbitrarily deny certain benefits to employees, but they want to take it a step further. According to Senator Marco Rubio, the new rule to expand birth control coverage “shows why we must fully repeal Obamacare." Repealing the entire Affordable Care Act would deny health care to millions of Americans. It’s no wonder they would have a problem with the new rule, if they don’t even believe everyday Americans deserve access to affordable care.
But not every Republican was against this new rule; in fact, the provision received bipartisan support from the two senators from Maine—Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe—who both chimed in to applaud the President’s decision. Snowe said,
“It appears that changes have been made that provide women’s health services without compelling Catholic organizations in particular to violate the beliefs and tenets of their faith. According to the Catholic Health Association, the administration ‘responded to the issues [they] identified that needed to be fixed,’ which is what I urged the president to do in addressing this situation.”
Senator Collins gave it her blessing as well, stating, “it appears to be a step in the right direction,” acknowledging that the administration “listened to the concerns raised by many and appears to be seeking to avoid the threat to religious liberties posed by its original plan.”
A number of other politicians, including Senator John Kerry and Governor Tim Kaine (both of whom are Catholic and opposed the rule initially) have signed on board to support the new provision. As Kaine said, “There are some who have wrongly used this debate to pit women's rights against freedom of religion. The steps taken by the White House show that there is a way to respect both.”
Senator Joe Lieberman was another elected official who initially opposed the bill but applauded the administration “for offering a compromise to end a dispute that has divided those who support religious liberty, those who support insurance coverage for contraception, and those who support both. I look forward to reviewing the details of the Administration’s proposal and how it will be implemented.”
Of course, a number of women’s health advocates expressed both gratitude and support, including Congresswoman Nita Lowey who penned an op-ed: “It is gratifying the Obama administration reconfirmed on Friday its commitment to women’s health by implementing the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that, given its importance to women’s health, contraception should be covered by health insurance as a free preventive service for all American women.”
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut also took pen to paper to laud the President’s decision:
“…this rule will increase access to important preventive services, cut health-care costs and end long-standing gender discrimination in prescription drug coverage, while ensuring that the liberty of core religious organizations is respected. Just as important, it will reduce unintended pregnancies and alleviate suffering; it will help women stay healthy, avoid or delay disease, and lead more productive lives. It is, in sum, a profoundly moral decision, and I am proud to support it.
The president’s decision to protect access to birth control reaffirmed his commitment to protecting women’s rights. But, despite the overwhelming support for the rule among the general public and politicians from both sides of the aisle, anti-birth control lawmakers are insisting on turning back the clock on women’s health. Friday was a victory for women, but the fight is just beginning. With the Senator Blunt’s bill up for a vote as soon as tomorrow, the attacks are continuing. That’s why we need you to join us and tell Congress to stop trying to block women’s access to birth control. Send them a message today.