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. 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.


    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.

  3. 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.

    1. just plain out wrong….. unless Carter was a liar like Ronnie..he was pro choice…..

  4. Elaine,
    Great link from Scarborough. The Republicans already lost the debate due to their continued war on women’s rights.

  5. 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…

  6. 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.

  7. 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?”

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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

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