You are browsing the archive for Birth Control Mandate 2012.

Why “Free Birth Control” Is Not Free

4:01 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

GOP Aspirin Birth Control

(photo: DonkeyHotey/flickr)

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Yesterday, August 1, 2012, was a momentous day for women, marking the official beginning of a process of ensuring that millions of women across the United States will–finally–have access to a full range of preventive health care services without a co-pay.

These include a wide range of services and interventions identified by the Institutes of Medicine as essential to women’s health and well-being, including breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence; screening for gestational diabetes; DNA testing for high-risk strains of HPV; counseling regarding sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; screening for HIV; contraceptive methods and counseling; and well-woman visits. Likewise, the ACA also ensures that plans must cover an array of services, vaccinations, and interventions, including those specifically needed by women, infants, children, and adolescents at different points in their lifecycle.

Unquestionably, due to the efforts of religious and political fundamentalists at the state and federal level to deny women access to reproductive health care of virtually every kind, the benefit that has gotten the most media attention is the one involving contraception without a co-pay. Many media outlets (see ABC, NBC, Grist, Shape.com) and some columnists, including our colleague Amanda Marcotte, have described the new birth control benefit as making contraception “free,” most frequently, for example, stating that now women will have access to birth control for free.

This is not the case, and it is misleading–and politically dangerous–to say so.

To get birth control without a co-pay means you have an insurance policy. No one can walk into any pharmacy today and get the pill without a prescription, which in any case first entails a visit to a doctor’s office. No one without insurance can walk into a doctor’s office and get an IUD for for free, nor any kind of contraception, unless they pay out of pocket or meet the means test for and are covered by Medicaid, an increasingly difficult enterprise in itself but the subject of a different article. Ten percent of women in the United States who work full time are currently uninsured and without coverage, they do not have access to “free” birth control. Nor do other women without insurance, or those whose plans are, for logistical reasons or because they were grand-fathered, not yet compliant with the ACA on preventive care. None of these women have “free” birth control now, and they will not later even if they get insurance. (See the National Women’s Law Center Guide on what to do if you have questions about your insurance plan and contraception without co-pay.)

Read the rest of this entry →

Fortnight for Freedom – Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

11:53 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Debra Haffner for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

An empty birth control holder discarded on the street.

Freedom from contraception? (Photo: Beatrice Murch / Flickr).

The Catholic bishops have begun a two-week campaign leading up to July 4th with the central focus of removing contraceptive coverage from health insurance reform. Of course, the Supreme Court any minute now may end or modify the Affordable Care Act, which may make this debate moot.

The bishops are calling their campaign a “Fortnight for Freedom” and cloaking their objection to modern methods of contraception in a religious liberty argument. It is a classic example of those on the religious right who would restrict individual freedom to make private sexual choices co-opting language to confuse and gain supporters. It is reminiscent of the right’s coinage of “partial-birth abortion” for abortion procedures after 20 weeks and the use of the term “death panels” in health care debates.

As a religious leader and as a person of faith, I of course support religious freedom. So does the U.S. Constitution and so, I presume, do you. To me, and millions of people of faith, religious freedom means that all persons should be free to make their own personal decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives, including their decisions about when, whether, or if to have children. These decisions are optimally informed by their conscience, faith tradition, religious beliefs and families, but ultimately they are deeply personal decisions that individuals can and should have the freedom to make for themselves.

Religious freedom means that the government should not privilege the teachings of one religion over another or deny individual religious freedom. Individuals must have the right to accept or reject the principles of their own faith without legal restrictions. The Catholic bishops do not speak for all faith traditions on contraception; indeed they don’t even speak for the people in their pews who use and support family planning in overwhelming majorities. It is past time for the Vatican and the American Bishops to understand that they cannot claim final moral authority in domestic or (as we saw in Rio last week) international discourse.

It is up to each of us to not allow the Catholic bishops or anyone else to co-opt religious freedom. Universal access to family planning does not require anyone to use contraception – rather it assures that individual moral agency and conscience are respected. Supporting religious freedom means supporting the right of all of us to make our own moral decisions. We know a wolf in sheep’s clothing when we see it.

The Sound of Silence: Catholic Hierarchy’s Lack of Response to Abuse of Women by “Project Prevention”

8:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Jeanne Flavin for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Recently, an all-Catholic coalition of 43 dioceses, hospitals, church agencies, schools and other religious-owned or operated but public entities filed a dozen separate lawsuits against the Obama administration, protesting the requirement that insurance plans covering secular employees include contraceptive services. These lawsuits follow on the heels of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ high-profile attacks on nuns and Girl Scouts.

What I find as interesting as who Catholic leaders have chosen to attack is when they choose to be silent.

I “get” that many Catholics have a moral objection to contraceptive use (though presumably this group does not include the 98 percent of sexually-active Catholic women who report ever using a contraceptive method other than natural family planning). I also concede that the selectivity of the “right to life” position is nothing new; the Church has yet to file lawsuits against Texas Governor Rick Perry and the state of Texas for their staggering stream of executions.

Still, it seems reasonable that the same Catholic officials who are incensed by the prospect of insurance coverage for contraception would take strong issue with Project Prevention, a program that pays a targeted group of women to be sterilized or use long-acting forms of contraception. A search of the Internet, however, indicates that Catholic leadership has said absolutely nothing on the matter.

Project Prevention is a national organization based in North Carolina that claims chapters in 27 states. It has a presence in the United Kingdom and Kenya and has floated plans to expand to Haiti, South Africa and Australia. Project Prevention pays $300 for women who “abuse” drugs or alcohol to undergo long-term birth control or sterilization. Project Prevention targets only the reproductive capacity of some low-income women; the organization does nothing to address women’s need for comprehensive reproductive health care, effective drug treatment programs, mental health services, and social, economic and educational support. Moreover, Project Prevention encourages dangerous stereotypes about the women and their children. (This video challenges such characterizations.)

Project Prevention has garnered considerable publicity since its founding in 1997, having been featured on national television shows and in most major newspapers. Its Facebook page features status updates such as:

“Excited to write several checks to addicts this morning, but most excited that 6 [women] were under age 20″ and “No better way to start my morning than writing 14 checks to addicts/alcoholics who obtained long term birth control.”

Earlier this year, Project Prevention proudly celebrated a milestone, having paid 4,000 women to undergo long-term birth control and sterilization.

Despite Project Prevention’s visibility, I could not find evidence that a single spokesperson of a major Catholic organization has ever weighed in on their activities.

Project Prevention was originally called Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity or “C.R.A.C.K.” The old name reflects the organization’s focus on crack cocaine rather than substances like alcohol, tobacco or prescription medicines that also pose a threat to fetal health but are more commonly used by white and middle-class women. Because another classy thing about Project Prevention is that more than half of its clients are racial or ethnic minorities. Mind you, founder Barbara Harris insists that Project Prevention doesn’t target any particular race. As she explains:

“We target drug addicts, and that’s it. Skin color doesn’t matter, and we believe all babies matter, even black babies,” and “If you’re a drug addict, we’re looking for you, and I don’t care what color you are, because we don’t even know what color your baby will be, because often these babies come out all different colors. They’re mixed.”

The heads of major Catholic organizations apparently have not seen fit to issue an official statement of any kind in the face of Project Prevention’s thinly veiled racial prejudice or its promotion of contraceptive use.

Disturbing? You haven’t heard the half of it. Project Prevention’s recruitment strategies rely on referrals from probation offices, jails, drug treatment programs, methadone clinics and law enforcement agencies. There have been reports of workers (and others) being paid a $50 referral fee.

“Project Prevention is growing and even making inroads into state institutions,” Harris has boasted. “We’ve had many organizations, county and state agencies come on board and start referring women to us. We have jails that allow our volunteers in to tell inmates about our program. We have drug treatment programs that are referring women to us. We have methadone clinics that have our information posted on the walls, and probation departments-just many, many agencies, in a lot of states, that are learning about us and making referrals to us.”

To recap: You have an organization that for 15 years has sustained a highly-publicized campaign of paying low-income women of color who struggle with drug problems to be sterilized or subjected to long-acting birth control, and which relies on government agents for referrals and government-funded agencies to provide the contraception and sterilization services.

In light of this, we might expect Catholic leadership to be at least as vocal in their opposition to Project Prevention as they are toward the coverage of women’s voluntary contraceptive use (or, say, the Girl Scouts).

Instead, we hear… crickets.

Download

Perhaps others, like me, find it increasingly difficult to listen to what some Catholic leaders have to say on the subject of morality when their silence on Project Prevention and many other matters of significant moral import has been nothing short of deafening.

Religious Freedom or Religious Control? Employees Should Get to Decide Where Their Paychecks Go

7:51 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Christine Charbonneau for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

I am the CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.  I am also an employer.  In the latest round of the War on Women being waged by Congress and the legislatures of the 50 states, much has been written of late about employers; what they want and do not want to insure, and most recently, how employers would be allowed to “weigh in” on the reproductive decisions of our employees.  Spare me.

I have 500 employees in three states.  Like most employers, I have a finite budget for the health insurance I offer my staff.  My goal, as I see it, is to get them the richest package of services I can find for the money I have to invest.  I consider the premiums I pay for this health care to be part of each employee’s compensation.  I also know that covering my staff appropriately results in a happier workforce, with less downtime due to medically related absences, so the investment is good for business, as well. 

Just as I would never dream of telling my staff what to do with their bi-weekly paychecks, I have no interest in telling them how to use their insurance benefits.  After the premium is paid, it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS. 

However, as Planned Parenthood has made it a goal to ensure that reproductive health services are covered in the larger marketplace, I will not purchase a health plan which does not cover contraception, and every outcome of pregnancy, including abortion. Three years ago, while completing the merger of Planned Parenthood affiliates in Western Washington, Alaska and Idaho, I sought to unify the health insurance plans which covered our employees, so that they would all get the same benefits and to save my organization the cost of administering multiple plans.

As we were selecting our insurance provider, I was told that they would be unable to cover abortion services for my employees in Idaho.  I was flummoxed.  After all, this is America, and I was fairly certain that there would have to be a way to buy coverage for a legal procedure.  So I told the plan in question that they would write me the coverage I was asking for, or I would write my $2,000,000 a year premium check to someone who would.

Read the rest of this entry →

Winning in Wisconsin: Changing the Game With Innovations in Contraceptive Service Delivery

12:11 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(photo: ee382, photobucket)

(photo: ee382, photobucket)

Written by Elizabeth Dawes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Imagine a working graduate student who can’t afford to spend a lot of time waiting in line, but now it’s time to replace her contraceptive ring. Fortunately, her clinic has a drive-up window that’s convenient and quick. She swings by after work to pick up her new ring and makes it to class right on time.  She doesn’t experience any gaps in contraception, avoids unintended pregnancy, and gets an A on the next test.  Score!

Imagine a woman who doesn’t speak English living in a small, rural town. She visits her reproductive health care provider to discuss her contraceptive options, but when she arrives the translator isn’t there. Within five minutes, she and her provider are engaged in a “Skype-like” conversation with another translator in a town over 40 miles away using a secure Open Source platform. She is able to review various options with her provider and leaves with a follow-up appointment to obtain an IUD – what she has chosen as the best contraceptive method for her.  Score!

Imagine a mother of one who has been using condoms to space her next pregnancy. One breaks on Saturday evening but instead of waiting for the pharmacy to open on Sunday morning, she calls the emergency contraception hotline and is given a code to a key box within a 5-minute drive of her home.  She visits the key box, enters the code, and obtains a packet containing the emergency contraception she needed along with sexual health information and a list of local resources.  Score!

Okay, you can stop imagining now.  These things aren’t happening in a time and galaxy far, far away.  They are happening right now across the United States – most notably in Wisconsin. Read the rest of this entry →

When They Say “It’s Not About Birth Control,” You Know… It’s About Birth Control

10:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Christine Adams for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

In his comments to the Senate during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, Dale Bumpers noted that “H.L. Mencken said one time, ‘When you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about money,’ it’s about money.’ And when you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about sex,’ it’s about sex.” The recent controversy over insurance coverage for contraception has vividly made the point that feminists have argued for years. The culture wars over reproductive rights never have been primarily about “fetal person-hood,” the right to life, or now, religious freedom: they have always been about the control of women’s bodies and sexuality.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when numerous states, and most western countries passed and more aggressively enforced laws against birth control and abortion, male legislators felt no need to pretend these laws were about anything other than controlling women’s sexuality, or harnessing their wombs in the service of the state.

The Comstock Act of 1873 took the issue to the federal level, and defined any information about contraception or abortion as “obscene” and “illicit”—it was this law that Margaret Sanger put to the test by disseminating information on birth control. In1920, French legislators criminalized birth control, prohibited all distribution, advertisement, and promotion of female contraceptives, and stiffened penalties for abortion. The French pro-natalist campaign had emerged in the wake of France’s defeat in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian war. Consequently, politicians linked the issue of birth control with those of morality, national strength, economic growth, and protection of the family.

Feminists such as Nelly Roussel, who tried to decouple sexuality from maternity, could not persuade the public that “voluntary motherhood” was preferable to coerced motherhood. Historian Elinor Accampo quotes a conservative newspaper editor who denounced Roussel in tones reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh’s recent attack on Sandra Fluke, writing that “these sorts of viragos, unsexed women who saturate literature and modern politics . . . mount their pens like they would mount a broom to go to a midnight orgy. Sterile or scorned, they avenge their disgrace by insulting Nature.”

In the American context, until Roe vs. Wade, restrictions on both birth control and abortion were most often linked to arguments about the selfishness of women, the danger of rewarding the wages of sin, eugenics, and the need to control female sexuality. The changes in women’s status that both led to and resulted from greater reproductive freedom made it more difficult for opponents of reproductive rights to explicitly continue this line of attack. Hence a new focus in 1970s and 1980s on the fetus as an innocent being, separate from the woman carrying it.

Pro-life activists also concentrated on the sexually active teenage girl, enacting new laws that would enhance parental control over their daughters’ sexual behavior. Institutions affiliated with the Catholic and other churches fought for “conscience clauses” that permit them to deny reproductive services they find offensive, while pharmacy employees claimed the right to refuse to sell items that violate their beliefs. However, as both Rosalind Petchesky and Rickie Solinger have made clear, ideas about how “proper women” should behave, both sexually and as mothers, still shape reproductive politics in the United States. Access to contraception and abortion represent the “emancipated woman,” more focused on her education and work than on family and child rearing. Rick Santorum made this connection explicit in recent comments, although he has tried to draw back from its implications in the face of outrage from even conservative women.

In recent years, the political right has tried to separate the issues of abortion and contraception, condemning abortion loudly while at the same time working quietly to make access to birth control more difficult and expensive. At the same time, in their rhetoric, they have tried to conflate birth control and abortion in the public’s mind—for example, in the case of Plan B. The recent insurance controversy has linked those two issues, but not to the advantage of pro-life and anti-contraception forces. Suddenly, women have been forced to confront the fact that the right even to birth control, which they considered long settled, is more fragile than they realized.

Since many continue to oppose a sexually active woman’s right to choose whether she becomes or remains pregnant, this debate will continue. But those who wish to make the case against reproductive rights should not be allowed to portray themselves simply as defenders of religious freedom or person-hood, or as desirous of giving women more information, as in the case of Virginia’s recently passed and medically suspect ultrasound law. They should publicly acknowledge that they believe that church and state have more compelling rights over a woman’s body then she does herself, and that the state has the right to endanger a woman’s health in the interest of controlling her sexual behavior. I’m not sure that’s a case that most legislators would care to make openly.

Health Insurance Coverage a Courtesy? No, It’s Your—and My—Wages

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(image: ee382, photobucket)

(image: ee382, photobucket)

Written by Vyckie Garrison for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This article is written by No Longer Quivering guest writer, “Sierra,” a PhD student living in the Midwest. She was raised in a “Message of the Hour” congregation that followed the ministry of William Branham. She left the Message in 2006 and is the author of the blog The Phoenix and Olive Branch.

I am fed up. Truly, deeply fed up. I’m fed up with the arrogance and hypocrisy of the fools who think there’s honestly any reason to oppose women’s free access to birth control other than to eliminate our ability to determine our own destinies. And so I’m about to say something uncharacteristically angry. I don’t apologize for it and I offer no overtures of respect for the Right Wing zealots who think they hold the moral high ground on this issue.

Shame on you, America, for your failure to recognize your female population as a group of citizens with the right to self-determination. Shame on you for tolerating blowhards and pompous dictators with crosses on their chests.

I received an ignorant comment just now, and I haven’t posted it because there’s enough vile refuse floating in the public sphere as it is. But suffice to say that it boiled down to this:

“Don’t tell the government to stay out of your reproductive choices and then demand that everyone else pay for you to have sex.”

My commenter is far from alone in this sentiment. In fact, she echoes Rush Limbaugh and all the other drooling windbags who think “taxpayers” are somehow being bled dry for the pleasures of others, of women, as though there is something about “women” that sets them apart from the former category. I have news for you, self-righteous cowards.

Women ARE taxpayers. Women ARE workers. Women EARN their health care every day of the year. Read the rest of this entry →

Who, Me? Limbaugh Regrets Not Slurring American Women With a Better Euphemism for Slut

8:38 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

After spending three days on his radio show calling Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified in front of Congress about the importance of health insurance coverage, names like “slut” and “prostitute,” Rush Limbaugh did something unusual: he apologized.

Just kidding!

It’s being reported as an apology, but if you actually read it, it’s not.

In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

In other words, Limbaugh is saying that there’s nothing wrong with his belief that women who use contraception—that is, 99 percent of American women—are immoral, filthy sluts. He just wishes that he had chosen better euphemisms, perhaps “hussy” and “lady of the night” while arguing that the only proper course for women who don’t want to get pregnant is to abstain from sex completely. (Limbaugh very pointedly doesn’t suggest this to men. On the contrary, he demands that women provide sex tapes if they dare use contraception, so he can masturbate to them. While celibacy is required for women in Limbaugh’s world, he has no problem with male sexuality. Or Viagra coverage, for that matter.)

By the way, we’re already aware that he wasn’t just making a personal attack on Fluke. Since 99 percent of American women use contraception—and since contraception is already covered by insurance and subsidized by the government—Limbaugh was using Fluke as a stand-in to argue that every woman who has ever had sex for any other reason than procreation is a bad person. In other words, pretty much all women. Which is a way of saying that Limbaugh wasn’t attacking Fluke, but just using her for a punching bag to express his hatred of all women.

The non-apology involved him doubling down on this argument: Read the rest of this entry →

The Pontifical Commission and How Birth Control Became Known as Intrinsically Evil

10:35 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Pre-formed humans depicted in sperm cells, known as "homunculi."

Written by Anonymous for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Anonymous is a practicing Catholic who writes for RH Reality Check on the church and contraception.

Half a century ago, the pope appointed a commission to study the morality of birth control. Multiple choice: What do you think their findings were?

A) Birth control is not “intrinsically evil.”

B) Married couples should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to use birth control.

C) Artificial birth control is an extension of methods of natural family planning already accepted by the Catholic Church.

D) All of the above.

You may be as astonished as I was to learn that the answer is “D.”

After I wrote my essay, “Why I Skipped Mass Today”, I decided to investigate my church’s historical attitudes toward contraception a little further. Let me start at the beginning, shortly after “The Beginning,” with a story from Genesis.

Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also. (Genesis 38:8-10, New American Standard Bible).

Onan: the first recorded coitus interrupter. I kind of feel bad for him; I am not sure I would want any of my sexual acts recorded for posterity. And can you imagine his Facebook page, if they had such things in those days? “Dude—heard you pulled out! WTF?” Read the rest of this entry →

Health, Freedom, and the Birth Control Mandate: The Testimony Chairman Issa Didn’t Want You to Hear

6:39 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sandra Fluke for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This testimony was prepared by the author appearing at the February 16th hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Hearing on Contraceptive Coverage. However, the Committee Chair, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) did not allow her to speak.  Instead a panel composed of male panel, and one anti-choice female participant

For all our coverage of the 2012 Contraceptive Mandate, click here.

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Members of Congress, good morning, and thank you for allowing me to testify. My name is Sandra Fluke, and I’m a third-year student at Georgetown Law, a Jesuit school. I’m also a past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice or LSRJ. I’d like to acknowledge my fellow LSRJ members and allies and thank them for being here today.

Georgetown LSRJ is here today because we’re so grateful that this regulation implements the nonpartisan, medical advice of the Institutes of Medicine. I attend a Jesuit law school that does not provide contraception coverage in student health plans. Just as we students have faced financial, emotional, and medical burdens as a result, employees at religiously-affiliated hospitals and universities across the country have suffered similar burdens. We are all grateful for the new regulation that will meet the critical health care needs of so many women. Simultaneously, the recently announced adjustment addresses any potential conflict with the religious identity of Catholic and Jesuit institutions.

As I have watched national media coverage of this debate, it has been heartbreaking, frankly, to see women’s health treated as a political football. When I turn off the TV and look around my campus, I instead see the faces of the women affected, and I have heard more and more of their stories. You see, Georgetown does not cover contraceptives in its student insurance, although it does cover contraceptives for faculty and staff. On a daily basis, I hear from yet another woman who has suffered financial, emotional, and medical burdens because of this lack of contraceptive coverage. And so, I am here to share their voices and ask that you hear them. Read the rest of this entry →