As you know, it’s been a rough year for advocates of reproductive freedom, here and elsewhere in the country. There’s a lot of work to be done, starting with the next election, to repair the damage and move things forward again, but in the meantime we need to make sure we don’t suffer a self-inflicted wound first. New regulations are being written about how companies who provide health insurance to their employees, which under the Affordable Care Act includes benefits for birth control. Her Votes sums it up:
Birth control coverage with no co-pays? Without a doubt one of the most popular benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the preventive care provisions for women require nearly every health insurance provider to cover contraception without any cost sharing.
Until now. Maybe. Because there’s a full court press from the Conference of Catholic Bishops (yes, reportedly even the Archbishops are weighing in) pressuring the White House to dramatically expand this refusal clause.
The Catholic bishops want to exempt the health insurance of every religiously-connected or affiliated institution from this requirement, and millions of Americans would lose this benefit – students, teachers and staff at religiously-connected schools and universities; social workers, nurses, and other staff (and their families) at religiously-affiliated hospitals that employ thousands of people, huge organizations like Catholic Charities, and many more – regardless of the religious beliefs of those employees and students.
Although the pro-choice community opposed having any exemptions from contraceptive coverage, the guidelines issued by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius contained a narrow exemption that applied primarily to houses of worship. But the bishops want more. Much more.
If the bishops have their way, at least six million women with health insurance will lose this new contraceptive coverage benefit, for no reason other than where they work or go to school.
We must keep the Affordable Care Act strong, and preventive care for women is critical.
They have a ton of links to various essays and calls to action about this so you can get up to speed. An email sent out by Planned Parenthood explains what you can do to help.
Continue to contact the White House. Direct contact with the White House remains our utmost priority. We need your help in continuing to activate your grassroots organizers, volunteers, and allies to make calls to the White House until the president ends this campaign. Place grassroots calls to the PPFA patch-through line by texting BCREFUSAL to 69866 or by calling 202-559-1164 If your friendly member of Congress has not yet directly contacted the White House, it would be helpful if you could make another push to ask them to reach out to senior White House staff. Likewise, any calls your board, donors, and other community leaders can make to key White House officials are much appreciated. If you have questions about whom specific donors should contact, please contact Amy Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org). Your Regional Field Manager is also available to answer questions and assist with any additional aspect of this campaign.
- President Obama should reject efforts to take away the birth control coverage benefit from millions of Americans who work at religiously affiliated hospitals, universities, schools, or organizations. These are nurses, teachers, janitors, and other workers who should not be discriminated against and denied a benefit that the vast majority of Americans will receive. There is already an unfair refusal provision in the women’s preventive benefit, which Planned Parenthood opposes.
- Expanding the existing refusal provision to religiously affiliated hospitals and other entities would amount to the single most damaging refusal provision around birth control that has ever been implemented. It would create a dangerous precedent that singles out birth control and undermines a fundamental tenet of the Affordable Care Act — that every person in this country deserves a basic standard of health care coverage. In fact, such an expansion would set a standard only rivaled by the refusal provision that President George W. Bush put into place near the end of his administration, a regulation that President Obama fortunately rescinded.
- Birth control without co-pays is one of the most popular benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Seventy-one percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support the requirement that health plans cover birth control without co-pays.
A decision could be coming any day now, so please take a moment to make a call and let your feelings be known. Thanks very much.