It appears that the Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Republicans are not happy with the change that President Obama made to the health care contraceptive coverage requirement for religious employers. The President’s announcement about the change yesterday initially met with a “reserved response” from the bishops who said it was a “first step in the right direction.” Hours later, however, the bishops issued a statement “blasting the plan.” Along with others, the bishops are calling for Congressional legislation that would reverse the contraceptive policy.
In a blog post earlier today, Judy Waxman, who is Vice President for Health and Reproductive Right at the National Women’s Law Center, expressed her concern about some of the proposed legislation. Waxman wrote that “opponents of birth control in Congress are still focused on taking away access to contraception introducing extreme legislation that threatens health across the board. The pieces of legislation range from allowing any employer, regardless of whether it is a religious entity, to deny coverage of contraception to giving employers the right to refuse coverage of any health care service they find religiously or morally objectionable.”
Igor Volsky of ThinkProgress echoed Waxman’s concern. He reported that Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, is expected to introduce an amendment next week “that would permit any employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it.
Excerpt from Blunt’s proposed amendment:
(6) RESPECTING RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE WITH REGARD TO SPECIFIC ITEMS OR SERVICES —
“(A) FOR HEALTH PLANS. — A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because —
“(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or
“(ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.
Waxman also wrote the following in her post:
They are playing politics with women’s health – and it would hurt everyone. Tell your Senators to reject all extreme legislation that would take away women’s access to birth control without a co-pay, and other needed health care.
What would happen if some of these bills became law?
- Any employer could offer a plan that does not cover maternity care for unmarried women in its plan, claiming that such coverage violates its belief that sex and procreation are permissible only within the marital relationship. (Amendment No. 1520 sponsored by Senator Blunt, R-MO, also known as the “Blunt Amendment”/H.R. 1179)
- Any corporation whose CEO opposes contraception based on his “moral convictions” could deny all coverage of contraception or any other service to the company’s employees. Even more disturbing, a CEO’s view of “morality” could potentially include concern for the cost of a particular benefit. (S. 2092, also known as “The Manchin-Rubio Bill” and the “Blunt Amendment”/H.R. 1179)
- Any employer who objects to coverage of vaccines for children could deny this coverage to all employees. (The “Blunt Amendment”/H.R. 1179)
Do you agree with Waxman that some people are playing politics with women’s health? Do you think our Senators should be called upon to reject–what Waxman calls–”extreme” legislation?
I’d like to note that birth control pills can be used to treat some medical conditions—including endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, adenomyosis, dysmenorrhea, and acne. Birth control pills can also lower a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer—as well as some other kinds of cancers—if she takes the pills for more than five years.
FYI: Last December, Alice Park penned an article for Time’s Healthland titled Should Nuns Take the Pill to Prevent Cancer?
Kara Britt at Monash University and Roger Short of the University of Melbourne, writing in the journal Lancet, argue that the scientific evidence is strong enough to consider whether nuns, who do not bear children — a lifestyle that puts them at higher risk of certain reproductive cancers — could be protected by taking the birth control pill.
The article in the Lancet claimed that Roman Catholic nuns pay a “terrible price for their chastity” because not having children puts them at a higher risk of growing breast, ovarian and, uterine tumors.
Roy Blunt Amendment (ThinkProgress)
Protect Women’s Health: Tell Your Senators to Reject Extreme Legislation (National Women’s Law Center)
Blunt expected to intro bill on contraception coverage (St. Louis Business Journal)
Bishops Renew Call to Legislative Action on Religious Liberty (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Should Nuns Take the Pill to Prevent Cancer? (Time/Heathland)
Combined oral contraceptive pill (Wkipedia)