The National Women’s Law Center Takes a Position on Contraceptive Coverage & “Extreme” Legislation

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

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:


“(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?

Park wrote:

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.


GOP Ups The Ante, Introduces Legislation To Allow Any Employer To Deny Any Preventive Health Service (ThinkProgress)

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)

Senator Blunt’s Response To President Obama’s Remarks On HHS Mandate

GOP Sen. Roy Blunt to introduce bill allowing employers to deny coverage for any health service (Daily Kos)

Groups rail against contraceptive coverage ‘mandate’ despite rule change (My Fox Philly)

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)

Nuns On Birth Control? Experts Say The Pill May Reduce Health Risks Posed By Chaste Lifestyle (Huffington Post)

Nuns should go on the Pill, says Lancet study: Nuns should go on the Pill to reduce their chances of developing cancer, researchers say (The Telegraph)

Combined oral contraceptive pill (Wkipedia)

129 thoughts on “The National Women’s Law Center Takes a Position on Contraceptive Coverage & “Extreme” Legislation

  1. You are right, Nal, and there are people that don’t like the dems and Obama that are frustrated by the fact that this has become THE issue.

  2. Arhhhg, I just want to pull my hair out, again. What about MY, the citizen’s, religious freedom/freedom from religion?!

    Medicare for all is the only answer.

  3. Great article Elaine. I am amazed that Americans in the 2012 are still listening to this kind of crap. Do the Republicans realize how many people are using contraception? I agree with Nal. The religious right can only carry them so far. I say the Dems should ride this into November telling the Right to take a hike.

  4. Dishonest.

    Just because someone is not willing to pay for something does not mean that person cannot pay for it themselves. Or find some other way of getting it.

    The claim that religious groups are taking away access to contraception is a lie.

    When you can’t get what you want, lie or play the race card. It works for some liberals.

  5. Anything can be an issue so long as you make it the issue….I am more concerned that all of the people who voted for the Bankster Bailouts will be what we are still stuck with…..That is more of an issue than right to lifes issue…..They take the improbable and make it the focus and then you get them distracted from the real facts and….You win….Right Karl Rove….It takes strategical thinking to get others to do your bidding….

    Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious because it is the obvious….

  6. rafflaw,

    We have to put some of the blame on liberals like E. J. Dionne who criticized the Obama Administration on this issue.


    Catholic tribalism and the contraceptive flap: Watching liberals defend a church they disagree with showed us that even Catholic insiders can feel like outsiders
    By Joan Walsh

    The resolution to the contraception contretemps seems mainly designed to do one thing: mollify the Catholics who defied the U.S. Conference of Bishops to support the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Church leaders are unlikely to officially back this so-called accommodation – the White House isn’t calling it a compromise — just as they continued to oppose the ACA even after President Obama did everything imaginable to insist the new law wouldn’t provide federal funding for abortion.

    But the new agreement makes it possible for women’s groups and some liberal Catholic leaders to maintain a truce on hot-button social issues while working together around issues of women’s health and universal access to healthcare. Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America are happy with the solution, and so is Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association, who endured withering heat from the bishops and their right-wing allies over the ACA. Kristen Day of Feminists for Life likewise backs the deal. Even New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan called it “a step in the right direction,” though he demanded more time to examine the fine print and suggested “legislation will still be required” to protect the church’s right to discriminate against women.

    The bishops and the entire 2012 GOP field will continue to fight their culture wars, but the White House apparently believes the non-compromise will win them the middle ground and make the 24-7 cable news show wailing and hand-wringing – even by some liberals – go away. We’ll see.

    But what just happened? Why did we spend 10 days listening to prominent Catholics, including even some liberals and Democrats, insist that the White House had overreached and trampled on “religious freedom” – in this case, the “freedom” of the Catholic hierarchy to impose rules that even most Catholics don’t live by? The great E.J. Dionne led the charge, but Catholic Democrats like Sens. John Kerry and Bob Case and Virginia’s Tim Kaine joined in, and occasionally, liberal TV hosts like MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Matthews seemed inclined to depict the controversy as being about the church’s right not to violate its own values. Vice President Joe Biden was said to be the leading voice within the administration warning Obama away from the issue.

  7. raff,

    There are a lot of folks that should have used contraception…And then again…there a lot of folks that should have been raise in Asia….They could raise there Youth in Asia…..

    if they hate the US so much, then maybe they should go somewhere else….All in all…It ain’t such a bad place to be from…We do have some bad actors that think they are God…inside and outside of an elective office…

  8. Why the dems wouldn’t make this an important issue I have no idea. Since the Catholic bishops, who have virtually zero ethical or moral legs to stand on, and their opportunistic cultural throwbacks in Congress have aggressively raised the profile, it is time to slam back. But, as we know, that is not the style of our accommodation President. At some point, though, the rights of women in our secular nation, the vast majority of whom are being marginalized by downplaying their rights, demand forceful attention.

    Attend to the real needs of women. The war on women has gone on far too long. Cowardly politicians should be ashamed.

    Though it may have been a shrewd political move to finesse the issue, as the administration has now done, it should never have done so in a way that attributes an equal and level playing field with the forces of ignorance that seek to control and dominate women. It cedes too much by acknowledging merit to the Bishops complaint and not confronting the issue directly.

  9. It’s strikes me as odd some of the things that the Catholic Church considers to be immoral:

    Single Catholic school teacher fired for ‘grave immoral act’ of having baby through artificial insemination
    – Christa Dias, 32, fired after asking for maternity leave while five months pregnant
    – Catholic schools said she violated contract, which requires her to adhere to Catholic social teachings
    – Dias says she shouldn’t be punished for wanting children

    There was nothing immaculate about a Catholic school teacher’s conception.

    Christa Dias, a former teacher at Holy Family and St. Lawrence Catholic schools in Cincinnati, Ohio, claims she was fired for becoming pregnant using artificial insemination.

    Ms Dias was fired in October 2010 when, at five and a half months pregnant, she approached her employer about maternity leave options.

    The schools initially fired Ms Dias, 32, for being single and pregnant, reports.

    When the schools discovered that violated several federal and state anti-discrimination laws, they said she was fired because she became pregnant using artificial insemination.

    That, the school said, was in direct violation of her contract.

    ‘She has a right to her opinion, but she doesn’t have a right to violate her (employment) contract,’ Archdiocese of Cincinnati spokesman Dan Andriacco told the website.

    The contract Ms Dias signed called for employees to adhere to Catholic social teachings, including the avowal that having a child without a husband and out of wedlock is a ‘grave immoral’ act.

    Ms Dias is still unemployed and now has a ten-month-old daughter for which to care.

  10. . . . and yes, Elaine, you are right, those “liberal Catholic” dems (and the all purpose moral scold Liberman) have enabled the misperception of this issue too by not framing it as primarily a matter of women’s rights not some ginned up twist on so-called religious freedom

  11. In theory according to this legislation if an employer sees it as immoral or against his own religious beliefs to provide ANY health care they could stop coverage…some people believe that hospitals and doctors are the work of the devil, I know this for a fact, and you can be sure that employers and insurance companies would all convert to that religious belief if they could.

  12. Elaine,
    You are right about the Church and its beliefs. On one hand we are supposed to believe an Immaculalte Conception occurred, but women can’t go through artificial insemination to have a child and now the all male Bishops are pushing back on anyone having contraception. Not just Catholics!!

  13. Beware of “personhood” legislation that could outlaw many forms of contraception.


    Congressional GOP Pushes Zygote Personhood Bills
    Mississippi voters rejected a constitutional amendment granting personhood to zygotes—but congressional Republicans want to take the plan national.
    —By Nick Baumann
    Tue Nov. 8, 2011

    On Tuesday, voters in Mississippi headed to the polls to vote on an amendment to the state Constitution that would designate inseminated human eggs as legal persons from the “moment of fertilization.” (Updated 9:30PT: The measure failed.) Its backers hoped to set up a challenge to Roe v. Wade and push toward outlawing many forms of birth control. In Mississippi, the proposed amendment created a political firestorm that’s been closely watched by both sides of the national abortion debate. But this fight is not merely a Mississippi matter, and it is far from over: In Washington, House and Senate Republicans are pushing legislation that would do the same thing on the federal level.

    The Mississippi amendment alters the state’s Constitution so that “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” Nearly identical language appears in three bills that have been endorsed by scores of Republicans in Congress, including top House committee chairmen Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

    Like the Mississippi measure, these bills, which are not constitutional amendments, would extend the rights of legal personhood—including equal protection under the law—to a zygote, the single cell formed when a human sperm fuses with an egg. The national measures are “designed to achieve the same end” as the Mississippi effort, says Sara Rosenbaum, a health law expert and professor at George Washington University who frequently testifies before Congress on reproductive rights issues. “The aim of the bills is to reclassify or to overturn…the fundamental constitutional fact on which Roe v. Wade rests,” she adds. Opponents of abortion rights agree with Rosenbaum’s analysis: The National Pro-Life Alliance, a group that backs all three bills, calls them “a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade” and sees them as a way of “legislatively overturning” the Supreme Court decision.

    If the bills become law and zygotes are afforded the protection of legal personhood, abortion would be legally equivalent to murder, as would almost anything that interfered with the zygote’s development. That could include the morning-after pill, which primarily works by preventing fertilization but which anti-abortion activists insist prevents fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. (Many scientists disagree.) Intrauterine devices (IUDs), which can prevent implantation, would also be affected by the laws.

    “It’s not even abortion, it’s not even pregnancy—that’s how far back this reaches,” says Donna Crane, the policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “It’s possibly the most extreme position you can take on this issue and far to the right of where most right-to-life individuals are.”

    Like the Mississippi amendment, none of the personhood bills being considered in Congress contain any exemptions for victims of rape or incest.

  14. Top 10 Shocking Attacks from the GOP’s War on Women

    NOTE: Be sure to check out #10.

    1) Republicans not only want to reduce women’s access to abortion care, they’re actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven’t yet. Shocker.

    2) A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to “accuser.” But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain “victims.”

    3) In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.)

    4) Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids.

    5) In Congress, Republicans have a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

    6) Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids’ preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.

    7) And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool.

    8) Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.

    9) Congress just voted for a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country.

    10) And if that wasn’t enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses. You can’t make this stuff up).

  15. It’s saddening to hear Romney, and realize all the Repugnant candidates are the same as he. How does the promise of power produce these.
    Of course, when in doubt, they say to themselves: “The ends justify the means.”
    But as someone said: Is this a distraction from the real issues? Considering how quickly it was fanned into a blaze, it must have been planned ahead. And is one of many such actions palnned to keep Obama et al off balance until November.

  16. GOP: Yes to Contraception for Wild Horses, No for Women
    by Jodi Jacobson, Editor in Chief, RH Reality Check

    During a month in which the anti-choice Republican and Tea Party majority in Congress and in many states have made it their priority mission to eliminate access to contraception for women here and abroad, and on the very same day that the House planned to vote to take away birth control for women living in poverty in the US and eliminate funding for international family planning, you will be happy to know that there is at least one group the GOP believes deserves access to contraception.

    Wild horses.

    Just a little while ago, according to reports from the House floor, a vote was held on an amendment introduced by Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from holding wild horses in pens and then slaughtering them.

    Instead, says Burton, they should pursue “a much less costly and more human option – immunocontraception…”.

  17. Have to head out but I hope Ron Paul wins the Maine Caucus. Paul is on the wrong side of the war on women but I hope he beats Romney in this one.

  18. Birth control may now be wedge issue against GOP
    By Greg Sargent

    At his press conference this morning announcing the new shift in contraception policy, Obama said: “I understand that some folks in Washington may want to treat this as another political wedge issue. But it shouldn’t be.”

    The irony is that after this announcement, this very well may become a wedge issue — against Republicans.

    That’s because anyone who comes out against the proposal Obama outlined today will be asked a simple question: Are you saying that employers should dictate to female employees whether they should or shouldn’t have access to birth control coverage?

    The policy announced today would remove religious institutions from any role in providing coverage for birth control for female employees. The transaction would occur directly between women and insurers. Yet here’s how Senator Orrin Hatch, one of the first to oppose today’s announcement, explains his opposition:

    “This is about religious freedom, and anything short of a full exemption is no compromise. …The backlash surrounding the White House’s decision to force religious institutions to act against their beliefs lays that fundamental fact that the President’s health law is unconstitutional to its very core.”
    By “full exemption,” is Hatch saying that employers at Catholic hospitals and universities should have the power to dictate to employees that they cannot have any access to contraception coverage? He doesn’t quite say it that way, but it’s unclear how else you would read his statement. And if Dems have their way, officials like Hatch will be pressed to clarify whether this is their position.

  19. If the Catholic institutions refuse to honor the law and provide contraception to its employees, the Dems should push the notion that their non-profit status should be removed. That should heat up the discussion a bit!!

  20. The Answer to All of this:
    The US has made People into Wage Slaves.
    I have worked in jobs where I witnessed Worker have to Eat Sh*t that would make Me want to Eat a Bullet, because they were Afraid of Losing Health Coverage for their Family.
    It’s All about Employer Leverage on Employees Lives.

  21. Marco Rubio’s Plan Could Cut Off Birth Control Coverage for Millions
    How the Florida senator—and potential VP pick—aims to use religion to undermine Obama’s health care policy.
    —By Nick Baumann | Thu Feb. 9, 2012

    A new bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a rising conservative star and leading contender for the Republican vice-presidential nomination in 2012, could cut off birth control coverage for millions of women who receive it through their health plans.

    Rubio has sold his proposal—introduced January 31 as the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” or S. 2043—as a way to counter President Barack Obama’s controversial rule requiring even religiously-affiliated schools and universities to offer copay-free birth control to their employees. But health care experts say that its implications could be far broader.

    If passed, the bill would allow any institution or corporation to cut off birth control coverage simply by citing religious grounds.

  22. Most of Obama’s “Controversial” Birth Control Rule Was Law During Bush Years
    The right has freaked out over an Obama administration rule requiring employers to offer birth control to their employees. Most companies already had to do that.
    —By Nick Baumann | Wed Feb. 8, 2012

    President Barack Obama’s decision to require most employers to cover birth control and insurers to offer it at no cost has created a firestorm of controversy. But the central mandate—that most employers have to cover preventative care for women—has been law for over a decade. This point has been completely lost in the current controversy, as Republican presidential candidates and social conservatives claim that Obama has launched a war on religious liberty and the Catholic Church.

    Despite the longstanding precedent, “no one screamed” until now, said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law expert at George Washington University.

    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—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don’t offer prescription coverage or don’t offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, you can’t offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.

  23. “Birth control may now be wedge issue against GOP”

    Indeed it will be. And it will be a wedge issue that also drags in the religious right. From a political standpoint, quite frankly, it is perfect for the Democrats. “Republicans and the Religious Right Hate Women”

    As for Obama’s protestations … yeah, right.

  24. I am old enough to remember the 1960 election, during which the Republicans were all in a tither over the possibility of having a Roman Catholic elected to the Presidency. (Gasp! Oh, the horror!) Why, the Pope himself would have an office in the White House, they cried, and the Catholic Church would run the country. Kennedy practically had to sign a Norquistian pledge to declare that such would not be the case, that he would be the President of ALL Americans.

    And now, 13 election cycles later, the Republicans are demanding that the country be run by the Catholic Church.

    (…followed by me burying my face in my hands and shaking my head…)

  25. The topic previously today was about Muslims and the Prince who bought Twitter and now the Tweets are being circumscribed in Saudia Arabia. The tenor of the comments was that Saudia Arabia is Ohhhhh so backward.

    So here in the USofA we have a Catholic Church telling people they can not have birth control. Publish or parish. I have rhtym. People accusing our President of shoving condoms down our throats.

    Ok folks if you buy into the Catholic Dogma then please do not get a dog for a pal.

  26. Will someone explain the details of the rhtym method of sex resulting in no pregnancy. When we were in high school we tried rhtym and blues and abstaining makes the heart grow fonder and several other things but most of the girls who got knocked up depended upon Catholic dogma. I guess the hoopla this week is to take the attention off of the parishes which might perish because of lawsuits over child raping priests. I think that there should be a Council of Altar Boys to counter veil the Council of Bis-hops. What the priests hop is a matter of public concern. They do espouse a birth policy akin to that practiced by rabbits.
    Just a dog talkin here. But inquiring dogs need to know.

  27. Re Elaine @ 6:06 – the Rubio connection

    Bad waking dream thought – 2016: Jeb and Mario. A real shot at grabbing the rising Hispanic demographic. Disadvantage: geographical distribution.

    Not a pretty thought.

  28. […] The National Women’s Law Center Takes a Position on Contraceptive Coverage & “Extrem… ( Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Life, Health, Politics and tagged Kathleen Sebelius, FDA, Emergency contraception, Rick Santorum, White House, birth control, the pill, insurance by K.S. Schultz. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  29. The Rubio Bill Would Allow Any Employer to Take Away Women’s Insurance Coverage of Contraception, Harming the Health of Women and Their Families
    National Women’s law Center

    The Rubio Bill Removes the Affordable Care Act’s Guarantee that Insurance Plans Will Cover Key Preventive Health Care By Exempting Any Type of Company and Entity From the Obligation to Provide Contraception

    Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Department of Health and Human Services has required that all new health plans must cover certain “preventive services” for women without cost-sharing, including contraceptives, except for specific religious entities (estimated to be over 330,000 houses of worship). The Rubio Bill removes the guarantee by allowing “any individual or entity opposed by reason of religious belief” to refuse to provide any coverage of a contraceptive or sterilization service. Any employer could deny its employee insurance coverage of contraception based on its religious belief. Any group plan could refuse to include these services. The result of the bill is that millions of women would lose their right to any coverage for these vital preventive health services, even a woman who faces a life-threatening circumstance were she to become pregnant. This right to refuse applies whether the company or other entity or individual has any connection to a religious organization or whether its employees share the same religious beliefs. This could mean, for example, that any for-profit corporation whose CEO opposes contraception based on his own religious beliefs could deny all coverage of contraception services to the company’s employees.

    The Rubio Bill Discriminates Against Women, Endangering Their Health

    The Rubio Bill singles out a basic health care service – contraception – that women need to protect the health of themselves and their family. As recognized by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the exclusion of prescription contraception from health insurance unfairly disadvantages women by singling out for unfavorable treatment a health insurance need that only women have. And 28 states require coverage of contraception in health insurance.

    Failure to cover contraception forces women to bear higher health care costs to avoid pregnancy, and exposes women to unique physical, economic and emotional consequences that can result from unintended pregnancy. The ability to plan a pregnancy can prevent a range of pregnancy complications that can endanger a woman’s health, including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and placental problems, among others. Contraception is also critical to helping women achieve healthy pregnancies. Women who wait for some time after delivery before conceiving their next child lower their risk of adverse perinatal outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth, and small-for-size gestational age. These important health outcomes are among the reasons the independent, nonprofit Institute of Medicine recommended including contraception as a required preventive service under the ACA. Moreover, some women use contraception for reasons other than birth control, such as regulation of cycles and endometriosis. Similarly, sterilization can be medically appropriate for women who would face a life-threatening condition were they to become pregnant. By allowing any individual or entity to take away women’s right to this critical health care, the Rubio Bill threatens the health of women and their families.

  30. U.S. Catholic Bishops Major Force Behind War on Women
    Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

    The collusion of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has led to an open declaration of war on the women of this country. The bishops have long sought to enshrine into law those policies of the Catholic Church that subordinate women. And they don’t care how badly women get hurt in the process.

    In the last election, the bishops helped to elect legislators that would do their bidding, which includes enacting dangerous and discriminatory bills denying women safe, accessible and affordable abortion care and family planning, even encouraging hospitals to let women die in the name of ‘life.’

    A recent poll shows abortion ‘barely registers’ among voter priorities, and yet Speaker Boehner has declared barring federal funding for abortion care a ‘highest priority’ — responding not to the call of his constituents but to the demands of the bishops. And it turns out abortion isn’t the only target, as evidenced by their stunningly dangerous efforts that, if enacted, can and will result in the preventable deaths of women:

    The proposed continuing resolution passed by the House to temporarily keep the government functioning would zero out Title X family planning, which has never covered abortion care. Should this gain traction in the Senate, millions of women, the vast majority of whom have incomes of less than $11,000 per year, will lose access to pap smears, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and contraception. It is a public health nightmare — but a dream-come-true for the Catholic bishops.

    HR 358, which many are calling the ‘Let the Women Die Act’ not only brings back Rep. Joe Pitts’ (R-Pa.) rejected Stupak-Pitts proposition from health care reform, but also encourages providers to refuse training, performance and even referral of abortion care. This bill gives our government’s ‘blessing’ to any emergency room that would let a pregnant woman die rather than perform an abortion procedure that could save her life.

    HR 3, also known as ‘Stupak on Steroids,’ would enshrine the Hyde Amendment into law and expand it to impose tax penalties on millions of families and businesses whose private insurance covers abortion care, thereby expanding the scope of Internal Revenue Service audits to the area between women’s legs. In testifying in favor of this bill in committee, a representative from the Catholic bishops proudly supported revoking abortion rights even in cases of rape. You read that right — and isn’t that rich, coming from the very men who have consistently protected sexually abusive priests?

    And HR 217, which NOW has dubbed the ‘Public Health Nightmare Act,’ would permanently eliminate Title X family planning services, leaving millions of women and men stranded without essential services like birth control, cancer screenings and screenings for HIV/AIDS and STDs.

    Pro-life? Hardly.

    Not only are these assaults on women’s rights at odds with generally accepted medical practice and flatly unethical, there is little doubt that they will kill women.

    The National Organization for Women is fighting back against these efforts in coalition with our allies and women’s health advocates across the country. We also renew our demand that the federal government require the all-male and violently anti-woman U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops follow the same lobbying and disclosure requirements that currently apply to everyone else.

  31. When Bishops Become Bullies
    by Charlotte Taft
    February 8, 2012

    The arrogance of the 350 Bishops of the US Catholic Church is mind-boggling. Though they are facing bankruptcy in many states because of the shameful tradition of priests molesting children, they still have the nerve to claim a right to make moral decisions for women. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) argued that birth control should not even be included as a part of necessary preventive health care, even though available birth control is essential for healthy women and healthy families. Since the Bishops lost that ridiculous argument, they now demand the right to impose their archaic, anti-woman and anti-family views on people who happen to work at Catholic hospitals and Universities.

    What is at stake is the availability of preventive contraceptive services that will be available to employees under the Affordable Health Care Act. There are already approximately 335,000 churches and houses of worship that are not required to provide birth control services for their employees because of religious exemption. Now the Bishops claim that their religion also exempts them from providing preventive health care services to the millions of employees at Catholic hospitals and Universities, many of whom are not even Catholic! These employees and their families have the same right to preventive health care as all other Americans.

    The fact is that the Catholic Bishops can’t even convince their own parishioners to follow their unrealistic rules—98 percent of Catholics use birth control and many have chosen abortion. Catholic schools and hospitals get Federal funds—-your tax dollars and mine—but they don’t want to play by the same rules as everyone else. In this economy it is ridiculous to argue that only devout Catholics work at Catholic institutions. The one million people who work at Catholic hospitals and the 2 million who work at Catholic Universities and their dependent families have the right to make their own moral decisions about their private lives. When the Catholic Church hires non-Catholics it has to recognize that these people have a right to their own religious freedom. The Catholic Church is not only the Bishops. It is made up of millions of Americans, the majority of whom agree that women should be able to get affordable birth control through their workplace.

    It is time for the women of America to say no to the bullying of a tiny group of men who will never know what it means to make tough choices about pregnancy; or have a baby; or raise a child; or scramble to care for a family. Catholic women may love their Church, but even they know when it has lost touch with real life. The rest of us demand the freedom to follow our own consciences.

  32. Why the Contraception Mandate Matters

    Lately the water cooler conversations at my religiously affiliated nonprofit social service agency have been focused on trying to understand the new HHS contraceptive mandate. My younger, female coworkers and enlightened male coworkers are giddy with anticipation. For as long as any of us have been working here, we haven’t been able to get coverage for our birth control and have even had to struggle to get our employer to cover contraception prescribed for conditions like polycystic fibrosis, and dysmenorrhea.

    When a coworker with a cancer-causing condition needed contraception, she didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t afford the medication out-of-pocket with her meager nonprofit salary. I called our HR Director on her behalf. It took weeks to get an answer. Meanwhile my coworker couldn’t fill her prescription and her condition got worse. Recently I found out that another coworker has been paying $90 a month out-of-pocket for the contraception she needs to treat her polycystic fibrosis.

    HR then told us that we would have to ask permission of the agency’s CEO on a case-by-case basis. It reminded me of when I first got my period at age 12. My cramps were so bad that my pediatrician recommended low-dose contraception. My non-Catholic mother said that my very Catholic father might not allow it and that I would need to ask him for permission. The only difference here is that we are not young girls and the CEO is not our father.

    I pursued my coworker’s issue with our agency’s lawyer. She acknowledged that the agency had to cover the contraception in this situation, and she finally intervened and informed HR that they needed to cover it. A year later, I too needed to get contraception for dysmenorrhea, so when I asked for coverage I ended up in battle with a male HR employee that knew nothing about the earlier situation. It was embarrassing to have to reveal my medical condition to him. The ground I thought I covered last year had been lost it seemed, making it a continuously frustrating battle.

    When I finally got a clear answer, I requested that the agency develop a protocol and send it out to our thousands of staff throughout the city. They refused.

  33. It sounds like some just need a little more loving than others. Give them your respect and know that they know not any better.

  34. @ FDL:

    ” . . . the Conference of Catholic Bishops has figured out how the Obama Administration has either cleverly or by fumbling finessed the contraception insurance coverage issue while exposing the Bishops to the charge their demands are more about using government to restrict women’s rights than violating the moral conscience of a bunch of old men.”

    And Digby also digs in; here’s a bit, but the whole post sears:

    ” . . . I would go even further and question why I should care about the delicate sensibilities of these allegedly liberal Catholic elites who hypocritically use birth control themselves and yet insist their Church be able to use it as a political cudgel on behalf of the most retrograde reactionaries in our political system.”


    “This is the fundamental nature of the battle between enlightened liberalism and reactionary conservatism, always has been. In this case it’s a very explicit battle for women. But it’s not confined to women. Everyone should be concerned that this understanding of “liberty” is going to expand to allow any elite property owner whether religious or simply wealthy to opt out of community responsibility whenever it threatens their hegemony in their “private” sphere.”

  35. As a Catholic physician, I think the best way for women’s rights to be protected is to get rid of employer-based health care. That way the beliefs of the all male leaders of the Roman Catholic Church would have no influence on the type of medical coverage that a woman would want or need.

    In my view, the Pope and other members of the hierarchy are deliberately not respecting the “sense of the faithful”.

    The majority of Catholics have not accepted the decision of the Popes on contraception, ever since it was forced on the faithful, after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. A decision not accepted by the faithful need not be followed, according to Roman Catholic policy.

    Sadly, the Popes, cardinals, and bishops are laws unto themselves.

    Many of the American bishops are catering to the Republicans, since the Republicans are the people with the most money and therefore, the most power.

    I believe that the bishops are doing all they can to get rid of President Obama. The American bishops do not want to be made accountable for the worldwide sexual abuse of innocent children by predator clergy, that they have been guilty of protecting, by the abuse of their power.

    We Catholics have been blind to the ruthlessness and duplicity of the Pope and many other members of the hierarchy.

    It is time for them to be made accountable for the harm that they have done to innocent children, by their arrogance and abuse of power.

    I know that there are good priests and bishops in the Roman Catholic Church, but they do not have the courage to speak up, since they want to keep their jobs.

    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago

  36. Dr. McHugh, you said a mouthful. Getting rid of employer based insurance system is important. But what’s makes us think these culture war reactionaries, really power crazed cultists, wont stop until they try to seize control of the system in all it’s aspects, including elective government.

    Obama, as usual, is the easy political target, and he plays his clueless role really well most of the time.

    Be that as it may, it is hard not to see the arrogance of this Catholic bishops/Republican political alliance (with the useful idiot liberal dems chiming in) as also serving to distract, really overpower, the outrage within the mass of Catholics who are disgusted at the moral bankruptcy of the hierarchy.

  37. Off Topic but it resonates, at least in my mind:

    “Dallas School Girls Excluded From ‘Red Tails’ Movie Screening, Bussed Thousands Of Boys To Event”

    “DALLAS — When 5,700 fifth-grade boys in Dallas’ public schools recently went to see a movie about black fighter pilots in World War II, the girls stayed in school and saw a different movie instead.

    One of the pilots is among those asking why.

    A spokesman for the Dallas Independent School District said officials took only boys to see “Red Tails” Thursday because space at the movie theater was limited. Jon Dahlander told The Dallas Morning News that leaders of the district also thought boys would enjoy the movie more than girls.”

    One has to wonder if the “would enjoy” is really “should enjoy” in their minds: boys should enjoy airplane movies and girls should enjoy more genteel forms of competition. It’s all part of the same skewed mindset IMO,

  38. How the Vatican Almost Embraced Birth Control
    A secret history of the papal commission that endorsed the pill
    —By Frances Kissling | May/June 2010 Issue

    SINCE 1870, WHEN the Roman Catholic Church formally pronounced popes infallible, a lot of Vatican energy has gone into claiming that doctrine never changes—that the church has been maintaining the same positions since the time of Jesus. Of course, historians know better: Dozens of church conferences, synods, and councils have regularly revised the teachings, all the while claiming utter consistency. Thus, when the advent of the birth control pill in the early ’60s coincided with a major push for church modernization, there was widespread hope among Catholics that the reform-minded Pope John XXIII would lift the church’s ban on contraception. After all, the Second Vatican Council had explicitly called for greater integration of scientific knowledge into church teaching.

    John did establish a small commission for the Study of Problems of Population, Family, and Birth, which his successor, Paul VI, expanded to 58 members. Its job was to study whether the pill and issues such as population growth should lead to a change in the church’s prohibition on all forms of contraception (other than abstinence during periods of fertility—the “rhythm method”). The commission was led by bishops and cardinals, including a Polish bishop named Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. (The Polish government did not allow Wojtyla to attend meetings.) They were assisted by scientists, theologians—including Protestants, whose church had ended its own opposition to contraception three decades earlier—and even several lay couples. One of them, Patty and Patrick Crowley from Chicago, carried letters and stories from Catholic women worn out by multiple pregnancies, medical problems, and the financial burdens of raising large families. The commission deliberated for two years, amid much anticipation from the faithful.

    The Vatican’s position on birth control has long held something of a paradox: Catholics are encouraged to plan their families, to bear only the number of children they can afford, and to consider the impact of family size on a community and the planet. In recent years, under Pope Benedict XVI, the church has also made a major push to embrace environmental stewardship. Yet Catholicism has also been the most intransigent of the world’s religions on the subject of contraception, alone in denying its use even to married couples.

    This may have made some theological sense in the first century of Christianity, when Jesus’ followers believed he would return in their lifetime: Their mission was to prepare for the Second Coming by devoting themselves to the worship of God. Sex, they believed, was a distraction. The good life was best lived in celibacy—even in marriage. When the wait for the Second Coming evaporated, the belief that sex for its own sake was sinful did not, and abstinence remained the ideal.

    Yet by the first half of the 20th century, change seemed to be in the air. In 1930, Pius XII issued the encyclical (papal letter) Casti Connubii (“on chaste wedlock”), which acknowledged that couples could seek pleasure in their sexual relations, so long as the act was still linked to procreation. Then, in 1966, Paul VI’s birth control commission presented its preliminary report to the pope. It held big news: The body had overwhelmingly voted to recommend lifting the prohibition on contraceptives. (The former Archbishop of Brussels, Cardinal Leo Suenens, went so far as to say the church needed to confront reality and avoid another “Galileo case.”)

    Catholics rejoiced, and many began using the pill at once. But their hopes were dashed when, in July 1968, Paul VI released an encyclical titled Humanae Vitae (“on human life”), reaffirming the contraceptive ban. It turned out that three dissenting bishops on the commission had privately gone to plead with the pope: If the position on contraceptives was changed, they said, the teaching authority of the church would be questioned—the faithful could no longer trust the hierarchy.

    Ironically, it was the prohibition on contraception that would help erode the church’s power with European and American Catholics. Laypeople overwhelmingly disregarded it, and bishops throughout Europe undermined it with statements reassuring couples to “follow their consciences.” American bishops were more circumspect, but a survey of Catholic priests in the early ’70s showed that about 60 percent of them believed the prohibition was wrong. Father Andrew Greeley, a noted sociologist, traces the decline in church membership and even vocations to the priesthood in the mid-1970s to Catholics’ disillusionment with the church’s integrity on birth control.

    The church then turned its attention to Africa and Latin America—where bishops were more dependent on the Vatican for support, and Catholics, it was thought, were more traditional in their views of marriage and sexuality. The Vatican was able to keep the flock wary of modern birth control in part by linking it to colonialism: The West, the argument went, wanted to control poor people and reduce their numbers, instead of addressing the causes of their poverty.

    A Congressional Research Service report on the 1994 United Nations population conference in Cairo recounts the church’s decades-long fight against population and family planning aid: “The Vatican…has sought support for its views from the developing world by accusing the West of ‘biological colonialism’ in promoting family planning programs and has sought allies in the fundamentalist Islamic nations of Libya and Iran.” (In this endeavor, it had the support of the Reagan and Bush administrations, which battled global family planning efforts seen as Trojan horses for abortion rights.)

    The birth control-equals-colonialism argument was undercut, however, at the 1994 conference, when the UN for the first time framed the right to reproductive health as a human right. The shift was unwelcome news inside the Vatican­—where the conservative Pope John Paul II had begun to dismantle some of the reforms of the ’60s—and it hardened the church’s resolve. Suddenly, opposition to contraception became almost as high a priority as battling abortion. At the UN, the Holy See announced that if family planning were designated as a part of primary health care—a designation that would define the terms of international aid for churches and NGOs.

  39. Bishops Are Behind the ‘Let Women Die’ Act and the Push Against Birth Control — Even As They’re Under Fire for Sex Abuse Scandals
    Sarah Seltzer
    Catholics for Choice
    17 October 2011


    Last week, the House’s passage of the now-notorious H.R. 358 — also known as the “Let Women Die” bill — caused deserved outrage. But the bill’s connection to the high-ranking Catholic group that fought for its passage, even while the American church is fighting a horrific new sex abuse scandal, hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.

    The new bill (which the president has vowed to veto) would essentially obliterate abortion coverage by both public and private insurers, and most egregiously get hospitals off the hook for refusing to perform abortions for women whose lives are in immediate danger. It would literally allow hospitals to let women die with impunity.

    H.R. 358’s easy passage by a majority in Congress (with some defecting Democrats in the ranks) delivered another shock of sexism in a political landscape that has been assaulted by one anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-women’s health measure after another, all firing in a succession of rapid shots from statehouses across the nation as well as from DC. Helping to man the artillery is a largely disgraced Catholic hierarchy.

    This momentum for misogyny has been painted as having mostly arisen from the Tea Party and the extremist evangelical megachurch Pat Robertson types. But these anti-choice forces are not alone, and they are not solely responsible: rather the (all-male, it should go without saying) Council of Catholic Bishops has aggressively, relentlessly, and successfully lobbied for many of the worst of the measures in the “War on Women.”

    During the health care debates of 2009, this group was instrumental in pushing for anti-abortion language. At the time, NPR reported that Democrats found them to be “a lobbying force of unexpected influence” that had decided after budget cuts to focus their “strongest efforts” almost entirely on abortion issues rather than waste time on say, helping the poor.

    Specifically, their aims have included the one-two punch of pushing for the “let women die” clauses and anti-abortion measures of H.R. 358, as well as the alarming new fight against coverage for contraception, which would deprive the overwhelming majority of the Catholic public that uses birth control with coverage for birth control.

    The council has done this without being questioned by the mainstream media even in the long shadow of scandal, even though much of the American Catholic hierarchy’s capacity to treat issues of sex appropriately has been thrown into serious question by the seemingly never-ending child sex-abuse travesty.

  40. Elaine, good link: “Bishops Are Behind the ‘Let Women Die’ Act and the Push Against Birth Control — Even As They’re Under Fire for Sex Abuse Scandals”

    I read about the new numbers in the Milwaukee sex abuse scandal last night. They got lucky with the timing of this insurance change and no matter what the Administration does now they will continue to raise a stink about it. It’s the only hope as a diversion from the new numbers – oops, found another 8000 kids abused in Milwaukee, who would have imagined?

  41. lotta,

    Thanks for the link. I hadn’t heard that story. It would seem the Catholic Church should clean house first–before it does anything else.

    Twelve years ago The Boston Globe Spotlight Team broke the story about clergy sexual abuse of children in Massachusetts. Cardinal Law–who helped cover-up the crimes–eventually resigned. He was rewarded with a great position in Rome.

  42. Catholics Call on Pope Benedict to Reconsider Vatican’s Ban on Contraceptive Pill
    By Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice
    5/ 5/10

    Fifty years ago this week, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the contraceptive pill. The man most prominently associated with the development and introduction of the pill, John Rock, was an Irish Catholic doctor from Boston. Dr. Rock didn’t set out to make waves with the Vatican; in fact, he was sure that his invention would gain approval from the Vatican and finally allow Catholics to practice safe and effective family planning. He was successful on both counts. Three different layers of a Vatican commission approved the pill back in 1965. But Pope Paul VI decided to ignore the findings of those panels and condemned Catholic women to a variety of unreliable methods if they were to follow the Vatican’s dictates. To this day, most Catholic women ignore the Vatican’s decree, and many millions of them have safer and more reliable family planning thanks to Dr. Rock’s pill.

    The story of the pill’s genesis is a fascinating one. John Rock was an infertility expert who was a pioneer behind many modern methods of assisting couples to conceive. In the course of his work, he also met many fertile Catholic women who wanted to space the births of their children, and sometimes to avoid having children. The Vatican’s ban on artificial methods of contraception meant that they had to rely on so-called natural methods, when a couple can only have sexual intercourse during the time each month when a woman is infertile if they want to avoid pregnancy. This was unacceptable to many, unworkable for those who have unreliable cycles and impossible for women who could not negotiate their sexual relationship with their partners.

    Rock, who worked with biologist Gregory Pincus to develop the pill, was convinced “that every couple should be able to choose freely the number of children they could afford — materially and emotionally — to bring into the world.”

    Rock figured that he could invent a hormonal pill that suppressed ovulation and therefore extend the safe period for sex as long as a woman stayed on the pill. He reasoned that the Vatican would accept this, and Catholic women who did not want to go against the Vatican would be able to have a healthy sex life.

    Contraception was an issue the Vatican had addressed before, and the advent of the pill raised new questions about Catholics and family planning. The Vatican had imposed a ban on “artificial” methods of contraception, such as condoms and diaphragms, in the1930 encyclical Casti Connubii. There was growing debate in the church about whether this ban should be continued, and if so, whether it should be broadened to include the new pill.

    This was a huge issue for the Catholic church, and not long after the introduction of the pill, in 1963, Pope John XXIII convened a panel to study the matter. The papal commission on birth control was composed of bishops, priests and lay people, including married Catholic women. They considered Catholic theology, modern science and the lives that married Catholics lead. The commission voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the church rescind its ban on contraception. The pope, concerned that overturning the ban would call all of the hierarchy’s teachings into question, appointed a second commission, made up of 15 bishops, which also voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the church rescind its ban on contraception.

    The results of these votes were leaked, and there was widespread rejoicing among Catholics. It was therefore a significant shock to Catholics — and indeed most of the world — when the encyclical Humanae Vitae was finally released by Pope Paul VI on July 29, 1968, proclaiming the teaching on contraception unchanged and unchangeable.

    The pope had completely ignored the work and recommendations of his own commission, despite five meetings over three years and a vote by 30 of the 35 commission’s lay members, 15 of the 19 theologians and 9 of 12 bishops that the teaching be changed (three bishops abstained).

    There is little need to reconvene a commission to study this issue. Not much has changed to negate the findings of the majority votes in the commission. Indeed, we have learned so much more about safe reproductive health that supports the real world application of the commission’s findings. It makes no sense to continue the Vatican’s wrong-headed approach to family planning. Even without the twin scourges of maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS, there are billions of good reasons to allow women to plan their families and to allow them to decide when and whether to have children: namely the 3.5 billion women in the world, of whom about 600 million are Catholic.

    It would be a lasting and wholly positive legacy if the current pope got behind the majority report of the 1963-68 commission and lifted the ban on the use of contraceptives to allow Catholics to plan their families. Given the fact that today, in the United States, 97 percent of sexually active Catholic women above the age of 18 have used some form of contraception banned by the Vatican, it makes little sense to continue the ban. In fact, the ban does more harm to the Vatican and its teaching authority than would changing it.

    Dr. Rock was a Catholic champion of women’s health. If the Vatican wants to regain some relevance and respect on this issue, it’s time to join him in his support for contraception.

  43. Diana DeGette: Bishops’ Efforts Causing Confusion On Birth Control Rule
    By Laura Bassett

    WASHINGTON — Rep. Diana DeGette, co-chair of the Congressional Pro Choice Caucus, said that at least three of her progressive colleagues, whom she declined to name, have expressed “confusion” over whether to support the Obama administration’s new birth control coverage rule after receiving personal phone calls from their Catholic bishops.

    DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, told HuffPost that the caucus had a briefing Wednesday with a panel of ethicists, doctors and hospital administrators to clarify what the contraception requirement does in order to end some of that confusion.

    “The bishops are a very powerful group, as we learned during the health care debate,” she said. “We had very good attendance at our briefing today because there’s a lot of misinformation from the bishops and a lot of confusion among members about what this rule means. Everybody felt like it sort of hit them this week.”

    The rule, announced in January by the Department of Health and Human Services, requires most employers to offer health insurance plans that cover birth control with no co-pay. Religious entities who employ mostly people of one faith and have the inculcation of religious values as their main purpose, such as churches and other houses of worship, are exempt from the rule. All other employers who morally object to birth control and don’t currently cover it for their employees have an extra year to adjust to the new rule.

    But the Catholic bishops consider the rule an assault on religious freedom because it doesn’t also exempt religiously affiliated employers, such as Catholic schools and hospitals, and they have intensified their lobbying campaign. Bishops all over the country read letters to their congregations this past Sunday urging them to call Congress and the White House and demand that the decision be reversed.

    “The federal government, which claims to be ‘of, by and for the people,’ has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people — the Catholic population — and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful,” Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield, Mass., told his congregation on Sunday. “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.”

    The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not respond to a request for comment.

    Prominent political leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have also sharply criticized the rule in recent days. Boehner said on the House floor Wednesday that if President Barack Obama does not repeal the rule, Congress will legislatively override it; Senate Republicans echoed that sentiment in a press conference the same day.

    But DeGette pointed out Wednesday that she hasn’t seen Congress repudiate a rule like this in the 15 years she’s been in office, and she’s not sure it’s even possible to use legislation to reverse a rule before it has been promulgated. While the birth control requirement was announced in January, it hasn’t yet gone into effect.

    “I’m not sure they’ve thought this through,” she said. “They’re trying to make a political point, but the fact is that a lot of what they’re saying about the issue is not true.”

    One point of contention is whether the rule forces employers to cover abortifacients.

    “This rule would require faith-based employers — including Catholic charities, schools, universities, and hospitals — to provide services they consider immoral,” Boehner argued in his floor speech. “Those services include sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception.”

    In fact, the rule covers emergency contraception, which the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology states is different from medication abortion because it actually prevents an unwanted pregnancy from occurring.

    Supporters of the birth control rule also take issue with it being characterized as “an assault on religious freedom.” They argue that the alternative, which is allowing employers to cherry-pick health benefits for the women they employ based on the employers’ religious beliefs, encroaches on individual liberty.

    “My question is: Who has the conscience? The employer who might have some generalized religious charter, but who’s employing vast numbers of people who aren’t of that religion, or the individual who’s exercising his own religious conscience?” DeGette asked.

    Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) predicted to reporters that if Republican lawmakers try to repeal the new rule through legislation, there will be a massive backlash equal to the one that hit Susan G. Komen for the Cure last week when it tried to defund Planned Parenthood.

  44. So, have the bishops overreached, along with their misogynistic partners in crime in the political world, and will there be a palpable backlash by 80-90% or more of women who this directly impacts at some point in their lives. On top of the Komen scandal, the Catholic church’ ongoing sex abuse scandal, is there a tipping point here somewhere? Or can this so-called center right nation not get enough Christian fundamentalism just to prove how much freedom we have?

  45. Maybe preaching to the choir, but Glen Smith says it well:

    “On Culture Wars and Running With the Wolves

    “The struggle is not new. And the media should have paid much more attention to this fact. From the Constitutional Convention of 1787 until today, people with radically different concepts of freedom have gone at one another. It’s freedom as individual liberty versus the freedom of some – a church, a state, a corporation – to impose its authoritarian will on others within a pluralistic society”.

  46. Andrew Sullivan: How Obama Set a Contraception Trap for the Right
    Feb 13, 2012

    Perhaps some helpful soul could inform the Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh, who last week calmly explained that “the Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, ‘To hell with you!’” A quiet word in the ear of the dogged opponent of gay marriage Maggie Gallagher might have helped too. Just after Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, was struck down by a court on narrow grounds, she titled a blog post: “Ninth Circuit to 7 Million California Voters: You Are Irrational Bigots.”

    Not to be outdone, newly insurgent presidential candidate Rick Santorum described a secular society not based on religious principles as a renewal of the French Revolution and “the guillotine.” Evangelical voters lined up in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado to vault him back into the front of the race. And when the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation withdrew support from Planned Parenthood, the reaction from the other side was almost as ferocious. “You don’t make good on a ‘promise’ to your dead sister by selling out women who need you most,” wrote Mary Elizabeth Williams on Salon. When Komen reversed its decision, the pro-life Republican who had been behind it, Karen Handel, resigned, complaining to Fox News about “the level of vicious attacks and coercion … by Planned Parenthood. It’s simply outrageous.

    Who knew the sexual and religious politics of the 1990s were suddenly back, under the president who promised he’d try to end them? And who knew the president himself—who has made an elegant art form out of avoiding exactly these kinds of controversies in his first three years—would have made the final call on the one that suddenly united the entire Republican right in roiling rage? That decision was the now-infamous one to propose a new rule to mandate coverage of contraception, sterilization, and morning-after pills in all health-insurance plans, exempting purely religious institutions, but including Catholic-run hospitals, colleges, and charities who serve the general public and employ many non-Catholics. This, House Speaker John Boehner declared, was an unprecedented assault on the First Amendment by a president who Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently said was “at war against organized religion.”

    Pouring more gasoline on the rhetorical fire, evangelical leader Chuck Colson compared opposing the Obama administration’s contraception rule to Catholic religious resistance to the Nazis. The next week, for good measure, President Obama was conspicuously seen going to church. And at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama himself defended a fairer tax code as an explicitly religious issue for him: “If I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense,” he said. “But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’”

    Suddenly no-drama Obama was neck deep in the kind of religious warfare he vowed to avoid. Many pundits—led by older white Catholic men, such as Joe Scarborough and my friend Chris Matthews and even the fair-minded liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne—declared his decision on contraception as not only morally wrong but a politically disastrous violation of religious freedom. Suddenly the specter of 2004—when the culture-war issue of same-sex marriage gave Ohio and the entire election to George W. Bush—reemerged, and some conservative Catholic Democrats began to panic. Within the administration, almost all the white Catholic men opposed the decision—from Bill Daley to Leon Panetta. But critically, the support for the decision came from women, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and key adviser Valerie Jarrett chief among them. So Obama didn’t ignite just a culture war but a religious and gender war as well. Welcome to the election focused almost entirely on jobs.

    But the conflict-driven headlines and predictions of disaster for Obama are, in my view, deeply misleading. Right now, they are driven both by cable news’s love of a good fight and high ratings and by the Republican primary campaign, in which the candidates, especially Newt Gingrich and Santorum, are desperately battling to unify the evangelical base, which is convinced its faith is somehow under attack. In the longer run, however, I suspect this sudden confluence of kerfuffles will be seen as one of the last gasps of the culture war, not its reignition. That’s especially possible since Obama’s swift walk-back last Friday, when he proposed an utterly sensible compromise, which exempts both churches and other religious institutions that cater to the general public from directly covering or paying for birth control, shifting the coverage requirement to insurance companies. So Catholic organizations will be able to stay out of the contraception question entirely, while contraception for all women will be kept free of charge. Instead of being lose-lose for the president, it became win-win. Most Catholics will be fine with this compromise, as are the Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood. But the bishops? They’ve gone out on a very long limb. This could be the moment when the culture-war tide finally turns and the social wedge issues long deployed so effectively by the Republican right begin to come back and bite them.

  47. Anyone who thinks Obama doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing is nuts. Biden and others were pushing the “less dramatic” approach from the getgo yet Obama went whole hog. Then he went back to the position Biden was advocating. And … (from an Administration that doesn’t leak) … we all know about it.

    Of course, he smiled sweetly and then introduced the “wedge issue” … claiming there shouldn’t be one. Ho … Ho. The point of the whole thing was to introduce a wedge issue and the Republicans and Roman Catholic Bishops charged in like the idiots they are.

    Andrew Sullivan’s analysis is spot-on and, of course, he waited for the Republicans and Roman Catholic Bishops to fully commit before publicizing.

    That’s called … “Give ’em enough rope ….”

    I don’t know if we’ve reached a tipping point. If I were any good at predicting that sort of thing, I’d be a billionaire. I usually recognize tipping points from a position of hindsight.

    I do know that this was a masterful stroke against those advocating for the War on Women and a positive political stroke for Obama’s re-election.

  48. Will the women (and their husbands) reason their way through this, or will they follow their bishops to the polls?

    Unfortunately, a compromise, not matter how Solomon-like, gathers little media impact and support among readers, the few who are exposed to the truth. Attributing such fine cognitive capabilities is perhaps only wishful thinking, or a projection of one’s own capability on others.

    I hope Obama made the right call. And the predictions become true.

  49. SM, he certainly is:

    So it seems like Mitch McConnell isn’t content with letting the issue lie. He intends to call out Obama from the freedom of religion angle. So Obama’s attempt to low key the whole thing hasn’t convinced the hallaluyah crowd, as anyone could have guessed. In the end Obama may just have to be a bit more explicit about what this is all about, which he should have nipped in the bud in the first place; women’s rights. Assuming he knows.

    From TPM:

    “House GOP leaders also said Friday they will move forward with legislation to repeal the birth control rule in its entirety. Republicans from both chambers are aligning themselves with the Catholic Bishops who say the new policy remains unacceptable.

    “The push indicates either that Republicans believe there’s still an opportunity to score political points against Obama, or that they’ve simply calculated they cannot back down now. Regardless, the success of the strategy now rests on the gamble that Republicans will be able to continue framing the issue as one over religious liberty and not contraception, despite the new accommodation Obama carved out.

  50. Off Topic:

    House Transportation Bill ‘Technical Correction’ Would Strip Workers Of Pay Protections

    WASHINGTON — A little-noted provision in the House Republicans’ controversial energy and transportation bill would strip several thousand workers within the rail-industry of their federal minimum-wage and overtime protections, potentially making low-wage jobs pay even less.

    Listed in the bill under the heading “Technical Correction,” provision 6602 would exempt several companies who transport rail workers from their obligations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the 1938 law that guarantees basic worker rights. The carveout would allow a handful of boutique contractors to pay no overtime to their drivers who haul rail workers between worksites, often driving long distances of 300 miles or more.

    “It’s outrageous that House Republicans are trying to take away overtime protections for a class of workers at the behest of a special interest,” Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) said of the provision in a statement to HuffPost. “These workers deserve the right to overtime pay. It’s not only a matter of fairness, but also a matter of public safety.”

    Earnings for rail-crew drivers often work out to little more than minimum wage, and many drivers must remain on-call for long stretches. Miller and others worry that by depressing wages further, the quality of the work — and, hence, roadway safety — could decline. Miller is expected to offer an amendment to the bill this week that would maintain the labor protections for rail drivers.

    The House’s transportation committee, which is chaired by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) and approved the bill, did not return a request for comment from The Huffington Post. Officials at several of the companies that could potentially benefit from the change — including Professional Transportation, Inc., RailCrew Express and Coach America — also did not respond to requests for comment.

    Jim Stem, legislative director at the United Transportation Union, said he just recently became aware of the provision’s implications, given that the bill would merely tweak a few words in existing law. He called the provision a giveway to contractors in the rail industry. According to Stem, many of the rail drivers already earn low wages and work long hours; the loss of overtime, he said, would have an immediate effect on their paychecks.


    Question: Why do Republican politicians hate American workers?

  51. Elaine,
    Republicans hate workers because those workers don’t vote for them in the numbers that they would like. The workers also demand living wages that prevents employers from making even more money.

  52. GOP Continues To Oppose Contraception Coverage Plan Now Supported By Large Catholic Institutions
    By Amanda Peterson Beadle on Feb 12, 2012

    The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops almost immediately rejected a compromise on requiring contraception coverage that the Obama administration announced on Friday, and Republicans have continued to attack the accommodation. Under the compromise, religious institutions will not be required to provide contraceptive coverage because insurers will provide contraception directly to employees at no cost, completely removing religious institutions from the equation. But this deal was not enough to satisfy conservative opposition.

    On ABC’s This Week, Rep. Paul Ryan echoed the Republican objection of contraception coverage. Ryan told host George Stephanopolous the compromise is nothing more than a “fig leaf” and an “accounting trick”:

    RYAN: To paraphrase the bishops’ letter, this thing, it’s a distinction without a difference. It’s an accounting gimmick or a fig leaf. It’s not a compromise. The president’s doubled down. […] If this is what the president’s willing to do in a tough election year, imagine what he’s going to do to implement the rest of his health care law after an election.

    STEPHANOPOLOUS: You heard Jack Lew right there, this is not going to force the institutions to pay for the coverage. […]

    RYAN: It’s a distinction without a difference. This is an accounting trick.

    Ryan’s own heavily-Catholic home state of Wisconsin currently mandates contraception coverage without any exclusion for religious institutions. As ThinkProgress reported, Marquette University, a Jesuit institution located in Milwaukee, even decided to offer contraception coverage prior to the state’s mandate.

  53. How does the Obama administration square this position with Sebelius overruling the FDA recommendation that all women be given over-the-counter access to Plan B emergency contraception?

  54. Why do you need a prescription to get Plan B?

    Why do you need a prescription to get oral contraceptives? Because they cost $9 – $20/month? How much do condoms cost?

  55. puzzling,

    What is Plan B?

    Oral contraceptives are drugs. There are certain risk factors associated with the taking of any drug. A doctor can determine which type of oral contraceptive may be best for a particular woman.

    Are there any risk factors associated with the use of condoms?

    Another thing: As I wrote in my post, birth control pills can be used to treat some medical conditions in women.

    P.S. I don’t know how much condoms cost.

  56. Birth Control Debate: Why Catholic Bishops Have Lost Their Grip on U.S. Politics—and Their Flock
    By Tim Padgett | February 13, 2012

    The Vatican’s timing was ironic. While Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S. were trying to revive their moral and political clout last week by battling President Obama over contraception coverage and religious liberty, a papally endorsed symposium was underway in Rome on how the Church has to change if it wants to prevent sexual abuse crises, the very tragedy that has shriveled the stature of Catholic prelates worldwide over the past decade, especially in the U.S. One monsignor at the Vatican gathering even suggested the hierarchy had been guilty of “omertà,” the Mafia code of silence, by protecting abusive priests.

    The Roman forum was a reminder—and the birth control clash is turning out to be one as well — of just how much influence the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has lost in the 10 years since the abuse crisis erupted in America. It hopes that its protest of a new federal rule requiring religiously affiliated institutions like Catholic hospitals and universities to provide no-cost contraception in their health insurance coverage, even if church doctrine forbids birth control, will help restore the bishops’ relevance. They did win a partial victory last Friday when Obama, acknowledging the uproar, said those institutions would no longer have to pay for the contraception coverage themselves. But the President did not fully genuflect: The compromise will still oblige religious-based employers to offer the coverage, while their insurance providers foot the bill.

    Although major Catholic groups like Catholic Charities and Catholic Health Services accepted that revision, the bishops are holding out for more. But their crusade to be exempted from the mandate is likely to fall short of its grail. If so, it’s because Obama read the Catholic flock better than its shepherds did.

    Granted, the bishops, led by New York Archbishop and Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan, did get the White House to acknowledge how high-handedly and ham-handedly it had managed the contraception debate—confirming along the way the public’s wariness of the so-called liberal elite—and convinced it to craft a deal that should have been policy in the first place. Yet in his refusal to cave completely to the religious liberty campaign, Obama has illustrated the reality that the bishops no longer speak for most U.S. Catholics—the nation’s largest religious denomination and a critical swing-voter group—on a host of moral issues, according to polls.

    Not on abortion or the death penalty (a majority of Catholics believe those should remain legal); on divorce or homosexuality (most say those are acceptable); on women being ordained as priests and priests getting married (ditto); or on masturbation and pre-marital sex (ditto again, Your Excellencies).

    And especially not on contraception. Ever since Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s senseless ban on birth control in 1968, few doctrines have been as vilified, ridiculed and outright ignored by Catholics – evidenced by a recent study showing that 98% of American Catholic women have used some form of contraception. It’s hard to believe, as the bishops would have it, that those women simply succumbed to society’s pressure to do the secular thing. They’ve decided, in keeping with their faith’s precept of exercising personal conscience, that family planning is the moral and societally responsible thing to do—for example, preventing unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortions. And it explains why a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll found most Catholics support the contraception coverage mandate even for Catholic-affiliated organizations. Presumably most endorse Friday’s compromise.

    Far more Evangelical Protestants, according to the PRRI survey, back the bishops than Catholics do. But that hardly makes the bishops, when it comes to the more independent Catholic vote, the same force to be reckoned with that they were in the 20th century. That is, before 2002 and the horror stories of how prelates like Cardinal Bernard Law, then Boston’s archbishop, had serially shielded alleged pedophile priests. It’s true that some bishops, like Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl, confronted rather than coddled accused priests. But when it became clear that so many of the men in miters cared more about safeguarding the clerical corporation than about protecting kids, episcopal “authority” vanished like so much incense smoke—and Catholics increasingly abandoned the 2,000-year-old notion that their church and their religion are the same thing.

  57. Great topic, Elaine. As usual your post has generated a ton of comments. The effort to extend rights of conscience to employers is not only bad policy, but dangerous policy. It is contrary to the notion of pluralism and effectively permits employers to impose sectarian religious views on employees as a matter of company policy.

  58. Republican Women Senators Breaking Ranks With Party, Come Out In Favor Of Obama Contraception Rule
    By Igor Volsky on Feb 13, 2012

    While GOP senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has pledged to fight the Obama’s administration’s modified regulation requiring health insurers and busnisses to offer contraception coverage without additional cost sharing, the revised rule “appears to have won over” two of the five Republican women senators.

    Sens. Olympia Snowe (ME) and Susan Collins (ME) — both of whom have sponsored legislation requiring insurers to offer contraception benefits in all health plans — are in favor of the new compromise, which would allow religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals to avoid providing birth control. Their employees will still receive contraception coverage at no additional cost sharing directly from the insurer:

    “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,” Snowe said in a statement. “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.

    “While I will carefully review the details of the president’s revised proposal, it appears to be a step in the right direction,” Collins said in a statement. “The administration’s original plan was deeply flawed and clearly would have posed a threat to religious freedom. It presented the Catholic Church with its wide-ranging social, educational, and health care services, and many other faith-based organizations, with an impossible choice between violating their religious beliefs or violating federal regulations. The administration has finally listened to the concerns raised by many and appears to be seeking to avoid the threat to religious liberties posed by its original plan.”

  59. Catholic bishops cry wolf on contraception
    Bill Press Tribune Media Services
    February 13, 2012–tms–bpresstt–m-b20120213feb13,0,5224040.column

    I love protests, and have taken part in many of them. My first was picketing in front of Safeway in San Francisco, urging shoppers to support California farm workers and boycott grapes.

    But there are real protests and there are phony protests. And one of the phoniest we’ve ever seen is today’s protest by Catholic bishops against the Obama administration’s new rules on insurance coverage of contraception.

    Judging from the cries of outrage coming from the Catholic hierarchy, you’d think President Obama had shut down Catholic churches, defrocked all priests, sent nuns back to Ireland, and dropped an atomic bomb on the Vatican. On every cable news or talk radio show, Obama’s accused of trampling on the First Amendment, declaring war on religion, destroying religious freedom and, of course, Catholic-bashing.

    Nonsense. Here’s the truth. On January 20, the Health and Human Services Agency, under Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, issued a new rule that insurance policies, as part of their basic package, must offer contraceptive services with no deductible or co-pay. An exception was made for 335,000 churches, missions, or other places of worship where all employees were Catholic or members of any religion which opposed contraception as a matter of faith.

    Note: The new ruling does not require Catholic hospitals or clinics to provide birth control pills or devices. It does not force Catholics to practice contraception. It does not interfere with anyone’s religion. It does not prevent priests and bishops from continuing their appalling medieval and widely ignored attempts to convince Catholics that contraception is sinful. It simply says that there can no longer be two kinds of health insurance policies: those that cover contraception and those that don’t. All women deserve access to the same health protection. It’s up to the individual woman to decide whether to practice contraception or not.

    What makes this whole debate so appalling is that, in raising holy hell against Obama, Catholic bishops are being dishonest. They accuse the president of infringing on religious liberty. Yet they fail to acknowledge, for example, that not everybody who works in a Catholic hospital or university is a Catholic — and should not, therefore, be bound by narrow Catholic attitudes toward sex.

  60. The bishops go off the deep end
    Rejecting the Obama contraception compromise, they display their irrelevance to moral and political dialogue
    By Joan Walsh

    Just as I was publishing my post about Catholic tribalism on Friday, predicting that the brilliant White House “accommodation” on contraception wouldn’t mollify the U.S. Conference of Bishops, the bishops released a statement that made them seem, well, mollified, at least a little. The new Health and Human Services regulations were “a step in the right direction,” their statement read, and so I softened an assertion that the bishops would continue to wage war against the compromise.

    I needn’t have soft-pedaled. Only a few hours later the bishops came out, guns blazing, insisting the only solution they would accept would be for “HHS to rescind the mandate for those objectionable services.” By any employer, for any employee in the entire country — a country where the vast majority of voters, and of Catholics, support Obama’s stand. And at Sunday Mass, bishops and parish priests throughout the nation read aloud the stunningly political letters about the controversy they already had planned. Now, with the bishops’ blessing, Republican are hard at work on legislation that would force HHS to strip the contraceptive coverage requirement for all employers, not just religious employers. Sen. Roy Blunt would allow employers to decline to cover any service they deem objectionable; Sen. Marco Rubio would restrict the legislation to contraception coverage.

    I have a couple of reactions to the bishops’ extremism. First of all, as someone raised Catholic, I wonder why they’ve never read letters about any of their social justice priorities: universal healthcare, increased protection for the poor, labor rights, or action to curb climate change? Why does this topic – not even the morally challenging issue of abortion, but the universally accepted practice of birth control – merit such a thundering reaction from the pulpit?

    Second, as an American, I also wonder: How do they continue to demand tax-exempt status when they’re railing in their churches about blatantly political – and divisively partisan – public concerns? As the first writer on my remarkably sane Catholic tribalism letters thread remarked, their public support for the extremist GOP position makes me think they should register as a Republican political action committee rather than remain a tax-exempt religious institution outside the bounds of politics.

    Even as the bishops became more shrill and extreme, the debate over contraception coverage became smarter and calmer last week. Major Catholic organizations supported Obama’s Friday move, including the Catholic Health Association, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and Catholic Charities USA. Before the president’s announcement, famed attorney David Boies did the most to usher in the new tone by framing the HHS rules as a matter of labor law. Boies doesn’t believe, by the way, that HHS is in any way required to provide the exemption for churches it wrote into its regulations even before the compromise. If the church is employing people, whether co-religionists or not, it has a responsibility to comply with employment law. He proved that even the administration’s initial regulations, exempting churches, was a strong attempt at accommodating anti-contraceptive religious groups.

  61. New Hampshire Republicans Slam President Obama Birth Control Rule, Ignoring Their Own

    One side effect of the outpouring of Republican outrage over President Barack Obama’s new birth control insurance coverage rule is that some GOP lawmakers have been forced to acknowledge the same policies in their own states — some without religious exemptions.

    New Hampshire illustrates the GOP problem. State House Speaker William O’Brien (R) introduced a resolution Friday urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to rescind the Obama rule requiring employers to cover contraception with no co-pay for their employees. O’Brien, joined by state House Republican Leader D.J. Bettencourt, Rep. Charles Bass (R), a spokesman for Rep. Frank Guinta (R) and Bishop Peter Libasci told reporters at a news conference that Obama’s compromise, requiring insurers to cover birth control when the employer morally objects, doesn’t go far enough to protect religious freedom.

    “This is about ensuring we do not mandate things contrary to people’s moral and religious views,” Bettencourt said.

    Nevertheless, New Hampshire has had a law on the books for more than a decade that requires insurance coverage for contraceptive devices and services — and the law has no religious exemptions. It passed with strong bipartisan support, and religious organizations in the state have been complying for years without complaint. The only major difference between the state law and Obama’s rule is that in New Hampshire, women are still responsible for an insurance co-pay.

    Bishop Libasci, head of the Manchester Diocese, said on Monday that New Hampshire’s birth control mandate has just now come to public attention and that the House will move to repeal it. But the majority of state representatives, 120 Republicans, 121 Democrats and 2 independents, voted to pass it in 1999. State House Minority Leader Terie Norelli (D-Portsmouth) said none of the Republican lawmakers, bishops or Catholic groups complained about New Hampshire’s law until now.

  62. White House attacks contraception bills

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Monday legislation in the Senate that would give employers broad leeway to restrict coverage for contraception is “dangerous and wrong.”

    Press secretary Jay Carney took aim at legislation by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – a possible GOP vice presidential candidate – and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would allow any employer to deny birth control coverage if it runs counter to their religious or moral beliefs.

    Another bill, by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., would go even further by allowing health plans to deny coverage for any service that violates their beliefs.

  63. Catholic Bishops’ Contraception Coverage Argument Ridiculed By Pacifist Activists
    By Zach Carter

    WASHINGTON — High-profile Republicans and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have decried the Obama administration’s new contraception coverage rule as a violation of religious liberty, claiming the Constitution protects believers from financing activities that conflict with their faith. Join the club, say American pacifists.

    For as long as the United States has been declaring war, there have been Americans who object to the use of violence on religious or moral grounds. Entire faiths are explicitly devoted to the total rejection of war: Quakers, Mennonites and many Pentacostal traditions, to name a few. Millions of members of other religions interpret the Sixth Commandment — “thou shalt not kill” — as a full ban on warfare. These people all still have to pay taxes, a tremendous percentage of which go to financing not only war, but capital punishment, a sometimes brutal prison system and the use of violence by police forces. The U.S. government has not found their religious views to be a valid exemption from citizens’ tax responsibilities.

    Many First Amendment scholars find the Catholic bishops’ argument to be weak.

    “There is absolutely no religious liberty infringement in requiring insurance companies to cover contraception,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “The birth control rule is what we call in First Amendment analysis a ‘generally applicable and neutral law.’ ‘Generally applicable,’ means it applies to everybody. And it’s neutral — it doesn’t target any specific faith. So if a law is generally applicable and neutral, it’s not a First Amendment violation. It’s basic, elementary First Amendment law.”

  64. The GOP Plan To Give Your Boss “Moral” Control Over Your Health Insurance
    Republicans now want to give CEOs the power to do away with any medical benefits they dislike.
    By Adam Serwer
    Tue Feb. 14, 2012

    In their latest move in the battle over contraception coverage, top Republicans in Congress are going for broke: They’re now pushing a bill that would allow employers and insurance companies to pick and choose which health benefits to provide based simply on executives’ personal moral beliefs. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the top GOPer in the Senate, has already endorsed the proposal, and it could come to a vote this week. The measure would make the religious exemptions to President Barack Obama’s health care bill so large they’d swallow it whole.

    “This is about gutting the Affordable Care Act, and the protections it was meant to establish,” says Leila Abolfazli, a lawyer focusing at the National Women’s Law Center who focuses on health and reproductive rights.

    Obama’s Affordable Care Act requires all health care plans to offer certain services and benefits, including birth control. Last week, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) offered a “conscience amendment,” to the law, pitching it as a way to allay religious employers’ qualms about providing birth control to their employees.

    But Blunt’s proposal doesn’t just apply to religious employers and birth control. Instead, it would allow any insurer or employer, religiously affiliated or otherwise, to opt out of providing any health care services required by federal law—everything from maternity care to screening for diabetes. Employers wouldn’t have to cite religious reasons for their decision; they could just say the treatment goes against their moral convictions. That exception could include almost anything—an employer could theoretically claim a “moral objection” to the cost of providing a given benefit. The bill would also allow employers to sue if state or federal regulators try to make them comply with the law.

    If Republican leaders get their way and Blunt’s bill becomes law, a boss who regarded overweight people and smokers with moral disgust could exclude coverage of obesity and tobacco screening from his employees’ health plans. A Scientologist employer could deny its employees depression screening because Scientologists believe psychiatry is morally objectionable. A management team that thought HIV victims brought the disease upon themselves could excise HIV screening from its employees’ insurance coverage. Your boss’ personal prejudices, not science or medical expertise, would determine which procedures your insurance would cover for you and your kids.

  65. Ron Paul vs. Birth Control
    Paul has sponsored legislation that would gut the Supreme Court decision that made birth control legal.
    By Kate Sheppard
    Tue Feb. 14, 2012

    Last year, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul introduced a bill in Congress that would allow states to ban contraception if they choose.

    Paul’s “We the People Act,” which he introduced in 2004, 2005, 2009, and 2011, explicitly forbids federal courts and the Supreme Court of the United States from ruling on the constitutionality of a variety of state and local laws. That includes, among other things, “any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction.” The bill would let states write laws forbidding abortion, the use of contraceptives, or consensual gay sex, for example.

    If passed, Paul’s bill could undermine the most important Supreme Court case dealing with contraception—1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut. In that case, the high court found that a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of contraception was unconstitutional based on a “right to marital privacy” afforded by the Bill of Rights. In other words, the court declared that states cannot interfere with what happens between the sheets when it comes to reproduction.

    Paul’s bill would also keep the federal courts out of cases like Roe v. Wade and 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, in which the justices found that privacy is a guaranteed right concerning sexual practices and struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law as unconstitutional.

    It’s well known that Paul, like the other remaining GOP presidential contenders, is no fan of abortion or gay people. But the issue of contraception access is one that has not received nearly as much attention.

  66. The National Council of Catholic Bishops is making the same mistake we have seen with Republican dominated state legislatures over the past three years-overreaching. And I predict that it will create a similar backlash.

  67. “It’s well known that Paul, like the other remaining GOP presidential contenders, is no fan of abortion or gay people. But the issue of contraception access is one that has not received nearly as much attention.”


    Thank you for giving this attention. While Libertarians flock to Paul he is a confused Libertarian, at best, with either a selective memory of US history, or a duplicitous message. While denying the Federal Government’s ability to deal with issues of equality, he is all for them being dealt with at a State level. In his universe the individual States have the right to be as oppressive as they wish.
    To decry government intervention in people’s rights nationally, but agree that locally they have the right to intervene, is not only illogical from a Libertarian viewpoint but actually dangerously disingenuous. As we remember that two-faced belief is what allowed Jim Crow to thrive in this country.

    The notion that government is better on a State level, rather than Federal level, because it’s closer to the people is both counter-factual and hypocritical. It was these contradictions in Paul, that aroused my initial distrust, which has been born out by the ever growing proof of his hypocrisy.

  68. Women that live in states with republican governors and legislatures would fare very poorly under Paul’s proposals.

  69. Mike S.,
    You are right that the term “states rights” can be a code word for racism. The reason why the Feds got involved in the civil rights movement was because of the Jim Crow abuses and the public beatings and killings. If left to the states, we would lose many more freedoms. Especially women and minorities.

  70. The kick off to this campaign was supposed to be the Komen action against Planned Parenthood. That kicked back so hard that Komen is probably finished. Yet the Republicans are following through on the course set as if each step met with success rather than abject failure.

    Catholic Bishops have become a laughing stock and all their pedophilia cover-ups are being rehashed. Nobody is showing up to vote in Republican primaries (only 6,000 turned out in Maine) and still they continue down this We Hate Women path.

    The stupidity is quite amazing.

  71. I agree w/this guy….

    “I’m telling you guys this is all about making corporate personhood into a religious wedge issue. Before the election is over, there will be a big noise about the war on Christian corporations thinly disguised as opposition to Citizens United. Soon, any criticism of legalized corruption will be met by howls of protest from the religious right. “…”
    LordofthemisanthropesToday 07:23 AM/Motherjones site

  72. Republicans say contraception-rule fight is not over

    Buoyed by the support of the Catholic bishops, congressional Republicans say they’re going all out against President Barack Obama’s modified contraceptives policy, ensuring that the compromise hasn’t ended the controversy over the health care reform rule after all.

    Senate Republicans say they want to force a vote on conscience legislation as soon as possible, and the House has already been drafting legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

    “We to need to work out a strategy and that probably involves the House,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), one of the Republicans’ leaders on the issue, said Monday. “But the next step is to really get this thing done. This is a critical constitutional issue and I would like to see this get on a piece of legislation the president is obligated to sign.”

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” this weekend that he would attempt to force a vote “as soon as possible.”

    And House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is holding a hearing on the regulation on Thursday. The tone of the hearing is clear from the question posed in the title: “Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”

  73. Debate suddenly shifts on birth control
    By Amie Parnes and Sam Baker – 02/13/12

    The furor over President Obama’s birth-control insurance mandate appears to have vaporized as quickly as it blew up.

    The White House faced just two questions on the issue at a briefing with reporters Monday, just days after the intense controversy threatened to swamp the president’s reelection campaign.

    While the president’s Friday “accommodation” did not win over the White House’s most harsh critics, some Republicans and Catholic groups have offered measured support, including centrist Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, suggesting Obama might have at least muddied the waters.

    In statements to a home-state newspaper, the senators said Obama seemed to have addressed the concerns over religious institutions. Snowe said the new policy appeared to include the changes she had pressed for, and Collins called it a “step in the right direction.”

    Former GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough (Fla.) said the divide among Republicans could help redefine the debate as a battle over contraception, rather than religious freedom.

    “He had a unified Catholic front against him, he split that in half now and now he can move on,” Scarborough, the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

    “If this debate moves on and stops being about religious freedom and starts being about contraception, then Republicans lose in a very big way,” Scarborough said.

  74. National > Obama’s pension chief pushes new plan to protect retirees

    Obama’s pension chief pushes new plan to protect retirees
    Gotbaum discussion of his agency’s funding and Obama administration proposals to close the future gap took place at a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee hearing Feb. 2. The panel took no action, but looked to the hearing to gather information on the nation’s pension system – or, as Gotbaum’s testimony showed, non-system.


    I wonder what that really means…

  75. Ellen Chessler wrote the article for Salon. She is the one that stated that Bill Clinton was the “first pro-choice president”, and she seems to be correct. Her article goes all the way back to FDR.


    Interview With Jimmy Carter

    Aired February 1, 2006 – 21:00 ET

    CARTER: When I was president, I announced and I still maintain that I can live with Roe v. Wade. I did everything I possibly could as president under that ruling, which I don’t think ought to be changed, to minimize the need for abortions. I think every abortion is a result of a horrible series of errors on the part of people involved.


    A question about Alito leads to brief discussion about abortion.

    KING: We’re hopping all over the place; your thoughts on the newest Justice Samuel Alito?

    CARTER: I hope he’ll be better than the indications are. He’s caused me a great deal of concern with some of his — some of the questions that he did not answer but he’s confirmed now. We have to live with that.

    And, I think there’s one saving grace about it all and that is that there was never any doubt when American people went to the polls in 2004 when the Republicans did win the election and there was no doubt that President Bush was intending to appoint as conservative members of the Supreme Court and the other courts as he could possibly get confirmed by the Senate. And, I think that the new Justice Alito will be just as conservative as maybe Scalia and Thomas.

    KING: And therefore that concerns you.

    CARTER: It does concern me but one of the things that concerns me most, I’m not all that concerned about abortion for instance. That doesn’t bother me. But I am concerned about not protecting American civil liberties and giving excessive power to the executive branch of government at the expense of the Congress and the court system.

    And, that’s the kind of answers that Justice Alito refused to answer to give when he was questioned at the hearings and based on his previous judgments and his public statements and the writings that he’s done, I think he’s not committed to a reasonable balance of power and authority between the three branches of government that have sustained the American democracy since the founding fathers had the visions.

    KING: It would not bother you if they overturned Roe v. Wade?

    CARTER: When I was president, I announced and I still maintain that I can live with Roe v. Wade. I did everything I possibly could as president under that ruling, which I don’t think ought to be changed, to minimize the need for abortions. I think every abortion is a result of a horrible series of errors on the part of people involved.

    And so, I made sure that our young people had adequate instruction on how to avoid pregnancy if they should choose to have sex before marriage and before they wanted a baby, abstinence is the best approach of course, I made sure that women and infant children, the WIC Program, Women and Infant Children gave prospective mothers the assurance that they could have their child and that they would be adequately cared for economically.

    And I also improved the quality or ease of adoptions by a mother who didn’t want to raise her child to get matched up in a convenient way with couples who couldn’t have children of their own and could delightfully raise those children. So, I did everything I could to minimize the need for abortions.

  77. TPMDC
    Dems To GOP: Keep Birth Control Out Of Highway Bill
    Sahil Kapur February 14, 2012

    Sensing a political upper-hand in the brewing culture war, Senate Democrats had their guns blazing against the GOP’s birth control amendment Tuesday, vowing to fight Republicans’ best efforts to tack it on to the bipartisan highway bill and warning that the measure would take women’s health in America back to the “dark ages.”

    “In 2012, I stand here in complete amazement,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), “that in a country known for its medical breakthroughs and advancements, Republicans would have us go back to the medical dark ages.” She said the energy and transportation bill otherwise has strong bipartisan support, and deemed the contraception amendment both a poison pill and irrelevant.

    The amendment by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) purports to focus on contraception, but it goes well beyond that. As written, it would permit all employers to deny any health services in their insurance plans that aren’t in accordance with their “religious beliefs and moral convictions.” The measure states no limitations or criteria, which means employers have free rein to decide what medical care their employees may or may not receive.

  78. US bishops plan aggressive expansion of birth-control battle
    By Stephanie Simon
    Tue Feb 14, 2012 5:19pm EST

    Feb 14 (Reuters) – Catholic bishops, energized by a battle over contraception funding, are planning an aggressive campaign to rally Americans against a long list of government measures which they say intrude on religious liberty.

    The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops plans to work with other religious groups, including evangelical Christians, on an election-year public relations campaign that may include TV and radio ads, social media marketing and a push for pastors and priests to raise the subject from the pulpit.

    “We want to make it something that will get peoples’ attention,” said Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.

  79. Why the Birth Control Mandate Is Not About “Freedom of Conscience”
    by Vyckie Garrison

    I’ve been hearing a lot about how requiring organizations to offer health insurance that includes birth control is a violation of “freedom of conscience.” That’s the same logic that was used to justify pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control. (I opposed the latter idea because of its hypocrisy: the Religious Right tells women that if they don’t want to be pregnant, they can choose not to have sex. I would counter that if a person doesn’t want to dispense birth control, he or she can choose not to be a pharmacist.) This time, however, the “freedom of conscience” logic does not work at all.

    The “controversy” (which is a kind way of saying “the ruckus kicked up by the Religious Right”) is about denying “freedom of conscience” to organizations. Not people. Specifically, not women. Since when did organizations have consciences? The members of their boards of executives might have consciences, and they might agree on some things, but they emphatically cannot speak for every member or every employee of their organization.

    The loudest voice in the fray currently belongs to the Catholic Church. Cries have gone up that the Church should not be forced to “compromise its principles” by covering birth control as part of their insurance package. But whose principles are these? A majority of Catholic women were using the pill as early as 1970. A recent report from the Guttmacher Institute (which is contested by Catholic bishops) estimates that 98 percent of “sexually-experienced” Catholic women use or have used the pill. If the opposition were really about “freedom of conscience,” you’d expect to find different statistics.

    The truth is, this “controversy” is about the exact opposite of “freedom of conscience.” It’s about denying freedom of conscience to religious women. The Church and the other organizations supporting it are desperately afraid that if they give women access to birth control, they will break down the doors of CVS to get it. The US Council of Catholic Bishops made the following argument:

    “[The Guttmacher stat] is irrelevant, and it is presented in a misleading way,” the group said in a statement. “If a survey found that 98 percent of people had lied, cheated on their taxes, or had sex outside of marriage, would the government claim it can force everyone to do so?”

    Except the government isn’t forcing women to take birth control. It’s forcing religious organizations to let women choose whether to take birth control. If the religious organizations in question had faith in their members’ convictions, they would not be worried about paying for something they disagree with because they would trust women not to use it. This so-called controversy is about religious officials taking away women’s freedom of conscience and giving it to the Church. “Freedom of conscience” is code for “the right to enforce conformity amongst religious women.” Actual freedom is about having a choice. The Church and its supporters want to monopolize freedom and choice for themselves while taking those things away from their employees and congregations.

    Not to mention where this leaves poor women who aren’t Catholic, but just happen to work at Catholic hospitals or charities because there’s no other work in their area. Forcing people who don’t even profess the same faith as you do to live by your rules is most definitely the opposite of “freedom of conscience.”

    If this were really about freedom of conscience, it would be a non-issue. Women whose consciences are not bothered by birth control would be able to practice their faith according to their own relationships with God. Women who accept the Church’s teachings would similarly avoid birth control. This is about religious officials’ fear of losing control, fear that their beliefs don’t match those of their congregations, fear that people will wantonly surge toward sinful abandon if not reined in by financial constraints. It’s authoritarianism cloaked in hypocrisy.

  80. Democratic Women Slam GOP’s Radical Contraception Amendment, Claim It ‘Opens Door To Discrimination’
    By Igor Volsky on Feb 15, 2012

    High-profile Democratic women are hitting back against the GOP’s opposition to the Obama administration’s new rule requiring insurers and employers to offer contraception in their health care benefit plans. Obama exempts houses of worship and nonprofits that primarily employ people of the same faith from covering birth control, while religiously affiliated hospitals and colleges can also eschew the benefit. Their employees would obtain the coverage — at no additional cost sharing — directly from the insurer.

    Today, the Senate will hold a vote on a Republican substitute introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), which would allow any and all insurers and employers to deny their employees health benefits and services required by federal law based on their personal religious or moral objections. The measure has 37 co-sponsors — including the GOP leadership, women Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Democrat Ben Nelson (NE), and Republican Scott Brown (MA). Brown has supported expansive conscience protections for religious organizations throughout his legislative career, but voted for a tougher contraception mandate as a Massachusetts state representative in 2002 and approved of a law requiring all hospitals — including Catholic institutions — to provide emergency contraception to rape victims in 2005.

    After defending Obama’s rule last year, Democrats are now on the offensive. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have derided Blunt’s measure as “extreme” and “dangerous,” claiming that “It puts politics between women and their healthcare.” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) warned, “This would gut the protections that were established in the Affordable Care Act and open a Pandora’s box that allows employers to deny coverage for virtually anything they might object to” and yesterday, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that amendment would permit insurers or employers to discriminate against women:

    “I am shocked that Senator Brown jumped in to support such an extreme measure,” Warren told me by phone just now. “This is an all new attack on health care. Any insurance company could leave anyone without health care, just when they need it most.” […]

    “This is an extreme attack on every one of us,” Warren said. “It opens the door to outright discrimination. It would let insurance companies and corporations cut off pregnant women, overweight guys, older Americans, or anyone — because some executive claims it’s part of his moral code. Maybe that wouldn’t happen, but I don’t want to take the chance.”

    Indeed, under the measure, an insurer or an employer would be able to claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an “unhealthy” or “immoral” lifestyle. Similarly, a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer.

  81. Catholic Voters Break With Church Over Contraception Coverage | Catholic voters are breaking with the Church’s opposition to insurance coverage of contraception, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds. Sixty-five percent of voters — including a majority of Catholics — “said they supported the Obama administration’s requirement that health insurance plans cover the cost of birth control, and 59 percent, said the health insurance plans of religiously affiliated employers should cover the cost of birth control.” A Public Policy Polling survey conducted on Friday similarly found that 57 percent of Catholic voters — and 59 percent of Catholic women — support the requirement. Under the administration’s policy, “women who work for institutions like Catholic hospitals and universities can obtain birth control from their insurance company without a co-pay, but their employers don’t have to include contraception in their healthcare plans.”

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  83. I can’t believe the ignorance of the overbearing statists that I read in the comments above. Nobody is trying to take your contraceptives away. They can and will always be found at CVS, Walmart and thousands of other outlets in this country. If you can’t afford them, go to Planned Parenthood or the thousands of clinics that dot the US landscape.

    But don’t put a gun to the head of employers, The Catholic Church or anyone who has moral reservations about contraceptives and force them to finance insurance that include a contraceptive provision. If you don’t like it you have many options. You can change jobs and find a company whose insurance provides contraceptive coverage. You can buy it on your own. You can find a charity that provides free contraception.

    However, please keep your hands out of my wallet.

  84. Pharmacists In Kansas Can Now Deny Women Access To Birth Control
    By Amanda Peterson Beadle on May 16, 2012

    Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signed a bill yesterday that will allow pharmacists in the state to refuse to fill a prescription they think could be used to induce abortion. But since the “conscience” measure says they cannot be required to provide a drug or devise that they think “may result in the termination of a pregnancy” — but does not define which drug in particular — the law’s opponents say it could allow a pharmacist to interfere with a woman’s health care by refusing to distribute birth control or emergency contraception.

    Women who already have difficulty obtaining contraception may face additional hurdles, according to Julie Burkhart, founder of an abortion-rights group in Wichita, Kansas:

    Burkhart said the law could create a hardship for women in small towns with a sole pharmacist who may refuse to fill certain prescriptions. In larger cities, women will have to make sure they go to a cooperative pharmacist, she added.

    “Women should not have to go armed with a lot of research when looking for a physician or pharmacist in the community,” Burkhart said.

  85. The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn’t disappoint me just as much as this particular one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read through, however I genuinely thought you would have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you could fix if you weren’t too busy looking for attention.

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