#HERVotes against the Bishops

via Feminist Majority Foundation Blog.  Today the FMF is launching their sixth #HERVotes Blog Carnival to combat efforts by Catholic Bishops to convince President Obama and HHS Secretary Sibelius to expand the refusal clause “to allow some institutions to refuse, under the Affordable Care Act, birth control coverage without co-pays to students and employees of  hospitals, universities, and other institutions, or other religious affiliated or connected institutions such as Catholic Charities.”  This exemption would mean that at least six million women with health insurance will lose their contraceptive coverage benefit simply because of where they work or go to school.

Lest anyone misconstrue this Blog Carnival as “Catholic bashing“, let’s keep in mind that the vast majority of American Catholics support birth control despite the official church position.    In other words, many Catholics believe that reproductive rights are human rights –  like their counterparts mainline Protestant churches (e.g. the  Episcopal Church of the USA) and Jewish congregations, are engaged in the “sacred work” of securing reproductive justice for women.  (this work has a long history — One of the “fathers” of the birth control pill, John Rock, was a devout Catholic; protestant chaplains, and even a few Catholic ones, helped college students gain access to birth control on campuses).

So, take action and help spread the word:  no way to birth control co-pays!

Cross posted from Knitting Clio

My Employer Shouldn’t Control My Contraception Decisions

by Leila Abolfazli, Counsel at National Women’s Law Center

On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Health of the Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing titled “Do New Health Law Mandates Threaten Conscience Rights and Access to Care?” If you are wondering how an HHS Interim Final Rule guaranteeing no cost-sharing coverage of contraceptives threatens access to care, you are not alone. The whole point of the regulation is to dramatically increase women’s access to contraception because it is critical preventive health care for women. In fact, it is not the new health care regulation that threatens access to care but the exemption HHS included in the regulation allowing certain religious employers to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage.

This exemption has no basis under the Affordable Care Act, the Constitution does not require it, and it takes away critical health care for many women. Despite these serious problems with the very existence of an exemption, a minority of people think the exemption does not go far enough. Against this backdrop, the Subcommittee convened the hearing to debate the exemption and proposals for expanding it to include a much larger group of religious employers, like hospitals and universities.

After attending the hearing, I think a better title would have been the question so aptly posed by Representative Schakowsky in her opening remarks, “Why should the conscience of an employer trump a woman’s conscience?” Because that is exactly the position the three witnesses in favor of expanding the exemption took during the hearing. Notably, these witnesses, representing three religiously-affiliated entities including Alliance of Catholic Health Care, Christian Medical Association, and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., paid no attention to the health benefits of the HHS regulation. Instead, their argument was: we provide all of these services, you should be thanking us, and don’t subject us to this regulation (even though it improves our employees’ health). They also gave veiled threats of all the bad things that would occur if the regulation took effect — like hospitals shutting down and physicians leaving the field in droves. By hiding behind this parade of horribles, the witnesses refused to acknowledge the basic fact that gutting this regulation harms women. They had no answer to Dr. Hathaway’s testimony that contraception improves health. They had no answer to the concrete, well-documented benefits of providing unburdened access to contraception, or Dr. Hathaway’s experiences of treating patients who face significant burdens in accessing contraception. They had no answer to the fact that virtually all women have used contraception at some point in their lives. They had no answer because they were there to represent the religiously-affiliated employers, not the women who are positioned to benefit so greatly from the regulation.

As Mr. O’Brien from Catholics for Choice succinctly stated in his testimony against expanding the exemption for religious employers , “[i]t is incredible to suggest that a hospital or an insurance plan has a conscience.” It is also incredible that all of this energy is being spent to take away one of the most significant gains in women’s access to basic preventive health care. As Representative Schakowsky said, allowing employers to opt out of the regulation “is counterproductive, unfair, and paternalistic.” This is not what the Affordable Care Act set out to do, and this is not what women and their families deserve.

Tell President Obama All Women Need Affordable Birth Control

by Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at National Women’s Law Center

They’re at it again. Opponents of birth control are trying to put women’s health at risk.

Over the summer, we secured a big victory when we helped get all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives covered and without a co-pay. However, we were dismayed that the administration allowed some employers to deny this coverage to their employees. Now, some opponents of contraception are pressuring President Obama to deny this critical benefit to more than a million more women.

Tell them NO! When we make progress in women’s health, ALL women deserve to be part of that success. Tell the President that all women should have coverage of contraception without co-pays.

The reality is that nearly all of sexually active women in the U.S., regardless of their religious beliefs, use contraception at some point in their lives, and it is a preventive health service that should be covered regardless of where they work.

Tell President Obama to give all women access to contraception without co-pays.

For many years, the National Women’s Law Center has been working to get contraception covered in all health insurance plans, and we won’t stop now! This summer over 60,000 of you joined our effort to say: birth control — we got you covered! We need your help again to ensure that ALL women have access to affordable contraceptiontell President Obama to give ALL women access to contraception without co-pays

Tell Obama to Protect Birth Control!

by Maureen Shaw, sherights

Obama ran as a pro-woman presidential candidate. Now we will see whether it was all lip service or if he will stand up for women’s health.

Despite the fact that birth control constitutes “preventive care” under the Affordable Care Act — meaning it is covered at no cost by insurance plans — it looks as though Obama may expand the religious conscience clause concerning contraceptives. Catholic Bishops have been pressuring the Administration to do just this, which would allow religiously affiliated institutions that are not churches—such as hospitals, universities, and others—to refuse to cover birth control without co-pays for their students and employees.

This is not a surprising move on behalf of Catholic Bishops. What’s more surprising is how out of touch the Catholic hierarchy is with the lay Catholic population. According to Catholics for Choice, over 98% of sexually active Catholic women use birth control. Furthermore, 63% of Catholics believe that health insurance, whether private or government-run, should cover contraception. Right on.

Not to sound like a broken record, but religion has NO place in politics or health care whatsoever — especially a religion that has such little regard for women’s health and rights.

Do women a solid and call the White House to tell him to stand strong with us. He must not cave to extremist, religious pressures. Expanding refusal clauses to allow certain institutions and universities to refuse coverage for contraception is not what we want as a part of healthcare reform.

Cross posted from SheRights

Women’s Basic Health Coverage Is Not For Sale

By Miri Cypers, JWI Senior Policy & Advocacy Specialist

Nearly one week after the defeat of the Mississippi “personhood initiative,” when the state of women’s reproductive rights in our country seemed like it could not be any more threatened, various news outlets have published an incredibly troubling story that requires our immediate attention. This Monday, the New York Times printed a story about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ renewed fight against abortion, casting it as an issue of “religious liberty” against a government encroaching on the church’s rights.

After meeting with President Obama, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the president of the Catholics Bishops, indicated that the President might be considering expanding a troubling religious exemption adopted under the new health care law that allows certain religious employers to opt out of the new federal requirement. This federal requirement, to be implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledges that birth control is a preventative service and qualifies as basic health care.

According to Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, in a Huffington Post piece, the expansion of this exemption to include religiously affiliated colleges, universities, medical schools, hospitals, social service organizations, etc. would be “…nothing short of tragic for millions of Americans and their families. Nearly 800,000 people work at Catholic hospitals and there are approximately two million students and workers at universities that have a religious affiliation. This expansion would impact all of these individuals — as well as their dependents, denying them a benefit that finally makes an essential health care service affordable.”

Get ready for another battle. And urge the President to protect women’s  fundamental right to  preventive health care.

Fox & Friends Hypes Gerson’s Op-Ed To Accuse Obama Of Being “Anti-Catholic”

From the November 22 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:


Washington Post’s Gerson Ignores Catholics’ Opinions To Accuse The Obama Administration Of “Anti-Catholic Bias”

Cross posted from Media Matters

Right-Wing Media Twist Pelosi’s “Conscience” Comment To Claim She “Bash[ed] Catholics”

by C.R. of Media Matters

Right-wing media seized on a comment Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made about Catholics and health care providers to suggest that Pelosi was mocking Catholics for having a “conscience.” In fact, Pelosi, who is Catholic, was discussing Republican-backed “conscience exemptions” for health care providers that refuse to perform abortions, which Pelosi has said could endanger the health of women.

Right-Wing Media Claim Pelosi “Bash[ed] Catholics” With “Conscience” Comment

Doocy Asks Bishop: “What Do You Think [Pelosi Is] Talking About There With Catholics And Their ‘Conscience Thing?’ “ On the November 22 broadcast of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy interviewed Bishop William Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to discuss whether the Obama administration is “anti-Catholic.” At one point, Doocy asked Lori about Pelosi’s comments:

DOOCY: Sir, I want to ask you for your reaction on something that the former speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said yesterday in the pages of The Washington Post. She said: “I am a devout Catholic, and I honor my faith and love it. But they have this conscience thing.” What do you think she’s talking about there with Catholics and their “conscience thing”?

LORI: It’s not Catholics and their conscience thing. It’s the Bill of Rights. Religious liberty is the first of our freedom [sic] and the source of all the others. I think that there are comments being made in public by lawmakers and others that really underline the reason why we have this ad hoc committee on religious freedom and why we have to, as a country, unite in defending our religious freedoms. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/22/11]

For more on the claim that the Obama administration is “anti-Catholic,” SEE HERE.

Drudge Report: “Pelosi Bashes Catholics: ‘They Have This Conscience Thing.’” On November 22, Drudge Report linked to a LifeNews.com article about Pelosi’s comments with the headline:


[Drudge Report Archives, 11/22/11]

American Thinker: “This Conscience Thing? As In, They Have One? And [Pelosi] Called Cain Clueless?” In a November 18 post, American Thinker attacked Pelosi’s comments, writing:

Pelosi sought to defend herself from allegations that she and her husband made millions from insider trading in what the Washington Post calls a wide ranging interview. And she responded to Herman Cain’s recent reference to her as “Princess Nancy,” calling it clueless: “clueless in that you don’t say something like that.”

Unlike, for instance, when Pelosi charged that, in voting to allow health care providers a conscience exemption from providing abortions, Republicans “will be voting to say that women can die on the floor.”

Pelosi conveniently ignored that the measure passed with Democrat support.

So, in Nancy’s world, it’s clueless to jokingly call Pelosi a princess, but okay for her to accuse Republican members of Congress of saying that women can just die on the floor? “They would!” she reiterated to the Post. “Again, whatever their intention is, this is the effect.”

Before the reader can recover from her hypocrisy, Pelosi added a startling, if inadvertent, admission. Addressing the effects such legislation would have on Catholic health care providers, Pelosi said:

“I’m a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it .?.?. but they have this conscience thing.” (Emphasis added.)

This conscience thing? As in, they have one?

And she called Cain clueless? [American Thinker, 11/18/11, emphasis original]

But Pelosi Was Referring To “Conscience Exemptions” For Hospitals — Not Individual Conscience

In Wash. Post Article, Pelosi Was Referring To “The Conscience Protections” For “Catholic Health-Care Providers.” In a November 17 Washington Post article, Pelosi addressed criticisms of how she characterized Republican proposals to expand “conscience exemptions” for providers that refuse to perform abortions. From the article:

Pelosi recently was criticized for the way she characterized a bill to amend Republican-proposed conscience exemptions for health-care reform that allow providers to refuse to perform abortions. Pelosi called the measure, which passed last month with some help from Democrats, “savage,” and said, “When the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor and health-care providers do not have to intervene, if this bill is passed. It’s just appalling.”

In retrospect, does she think that assessment went too far? Not at all, she said: “They would” let women die on the floor, she said. “They would! Again, whatever their intention is, this is the effect.”

Catholic health-care providers in particular have long said they’d have to go out of business without the conscience protections that Pelosi says amount to letting hospitals “say to a woman, ‘I’m sorry you could die’ if you don’t get an abortion.” Those who dispute that characterization “may not like the language,” she said, “but the truth is what I said. I’m a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it .?.?. but they have this conscience thing” that she insists put women at physical risk, although Catholic providers strongly disagree. [The Washington Post, 11/17/11, emphasis added]

Washington Post’s Gerson Ignores Catholics’ Opinions To Accuse The Obama Administration Of “Anti-Catholic Bias”

Cross posted from Media Matters

In a Washington Postcolumn, Michael Gerson accused the Obama administration of “systematic anti-Catholic bias,” pointing to its decision to end funding for anti-sex trafficking programs run by Catholic bishops that do not refer women who have been raped for abortions. In fact, large majorities of Catholics support allowing women who have been raped to have access to abortion.

Gerson Attacked The Obama Administration For Decision Not To Fund Bishops’ Anti-Sex Trafficking Programs

Gerson: Will Catholics In The Obama Administration “Betray Their Co-Religionists?” From Gerson’s November 14 column, headlined “Obama turns his back on Catholics”:

[T]he conscience protections of Catholics are under assault, particularly by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). And Obama’s Catholic strategy is in shambles.

Shortly before Obama spoke at Notre Dame, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts brought suit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), seeking to eliminate a grant to programs that aid victims of human trafficking. Because Catholic programs don’t refer for abortions, the ACLU alleged that public support amounts to the establishment of religion.

The Obama Justice Department defended the grant in court. But last month, HHS abruptly ended the funding. It did not matter that an independent review board had rated the bishops’ program more effective than those of its competitors — or that career HHS employees objected to the politicized handling of the grant. HHS announced it was giving preference to grantees that offer “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.” This was described by one official as “standard procedure.” So it is now standard procedure in the Obama administration to deny funding to some Catholic programs based solely on their pro-life beliefs.


Broadly applied, the HHS policy would amount to systemic anti-Catholic bias in government programs.


How will the White House respond? More specifically, how will the Catholic chief of staff and America’s first Catholic vice president respond? They gave up their own adherence to Catholic teaching on abortion long ago. But are they really prepared to betray their co-religionists who still hold these beliefs? [The Washington Post, 11/14/11]

The Bishops’ Anti-Sex Trafficking Programs Do Not Refer Trafficking Victims For Abortion …

The Bishops’ Organization “Would Not Refer Women Directly” For Reproductive Services, And “Refused To Reimburse The Subcontractors With Federal Dollars.” From an October 31 Washington Post article:

The ACLU, in the lawsuit it filed in U.S. District Court in Boston in 2009, argued that many women are raped by their traffickers and don’t speak English, making it hard for them to find reproductive services without help.

While the bishops’ organization would not refer women directly, it allowed subcontractors to arrange for the services, but it refused to reimburse the subcontractors with federal dollars. [The Washington Post, 10/31/11]

… But A Study Found That Trafficking Victims Are Often Sexually Assaulted …

Nine Out Of Ten Women Have Been “Physically Forced Or Intimidated Into Sex Or Doing Something Sexual.” From a 2006 study conducted by The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, titled “Stolen smiles: a summary report on the physical and psychological health consequences of women and adolescents trafficked in Europe”:

Nearly all women (95%) reported physical or sexual violence, with three-quarters of respondents having been physically hurt, and 90% reporting having been sexually assaulted.


Women were asked if they were physically forced or coerced by fear or threats to have sex or do something sexual. Nine out of ten women in this study (90%) reported having been physically forced or intimidated into sex or doing something sexual. The majority of women who reported being coerced into sex (83%) were also physically forced (92%). [The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 2006]

The study included the following chart:

[The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 2006]

Recommendations Of The Study: “Respect Women’s Reproductive Rights By Offering Access To Safe Abortion Services.” Recommendations for health service providers and organizations providing services to trafficked women from the 2006 study by The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine:

3. Provide physical, sexual, reproductive and mental health support adapted from models of good practice used for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and torture, also relying on good practice guidelines for minority communities and refugees.

4. Respect women’s sexual and reproductive health rights by offering access to safe abortion services, counselling (sic) for voluntary HIV testing, anti-retroviral drugs, and post-prophylaxis, as required. [The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 2006]

… And American Catholics Think Rape Victims Should Have Access To Abortions

Poll: 78 Percent Of Catholics Think Women Should Be Able To Obtain An Abortion When A Pregnancy Is The Result Of Rape. From A Catholics for Choice pamphlet, titled “The Facts Tell the Story”:

86% of Catholics approve of abortion when a woman’s health is seriously endangered, and 78% think it should be possible for a woman to obtain an abortion when a pregnancy is the result of rape. (GSS 2008) [Catholics for Choice, 2011]

Gerson Also Attacked The Obama Administration For Potentially Requiring Catholic Employers To Provide Birth Control Coverage ….

Gerson: Proposal To Require Employers To Cover Contraception Is A “Provocation” Against Catholics. From Gerson’s November 14 column:

Broadly applied, the HHS policy would amount to systemic anti-Catholic bias in government programs. And the provocation is one in a series. HHS has drawn conscience protections so narrowly that Catholic colleges, universities and hospitals — any Catholic institution that employs and serves non-Catholics — will be required to offer health coverage that includes contraception and drugs that cause abortion. [The Washington Post, 11/14/11]

… But Catholics Also Support Health Insurance Coverage For Contraception

Survey: 63 Percent Of Catholic Voters Support Health Insurance Coverage For Contraception And The Use Of Condoms To Prevent HIV/AIDS. A September 2009 national opinion survey of Catholic voters found that when asked, “Do you think health insurance policies — whether they are private or government — should cover … [c]ontraception, such as birth control pills,” 63 percent said yes. [Belden Russonello & Stewart, September 2009]

The Other 99%: Will Obama Betray Them?

by Carole Joffe, University of California, RHRealityCheck

See all our coverage of the Birth Control Mandate 2011 here.

There is another 99 percent group in our country, distinct from but inextricably entwined with the now more familiar #99Percent, those everyday Americans, who–in such a brilliant framing by the Occupy Wall Street movement–are to varying degrees affected by the vast economic inequality that characterizes American society. I refer to the 99 percent of American women who have ever had sexual intercourse and have used a birth control method at least some of the time. (As per the original Centers for Disease Control report, this statistic only includes contraceptive use reported by women during heterosexual intercourse).

Contraception obviously is a deeply held value by American women. But the fact that in the United States a startling half of all pregnancies are unintended makes clear that birth control is used only sporadically by some. There are a number of reasons why this is so, but a chief one is that so many women cannot afford contraception, especially the most expensive—and most effective–methods, such as birth control pills, and long lasting reversible contraception, for example, the newer (and far safer) models of IUDs (intrauterine devices).  In short, the same economic disparities that pervade every other area of American life manifest here as well: poor women depend on publicly-funded programs for their contraceptive services, but, according to the Guttmacher Institute, only a little more than half of the 17 million women who need these services currently receive them.

This situation of tremendous inadequacy was supposed to improve considerably. In one of the best pieces of news in the otherwise embattled reproductive health world since the battles over health care reform began, the Obama administration announced last August that it would accept the recommendations of a special panel of the Institute of Medicine and include contraception—including all FDA-approved birth control methods—as part of the basic package of preventative health services that health insurance plans must offer, without co-payments.

Predictably, the August announcement has produced a massive campaign from opponents of contraception, especially the Catholic hierarchy. Though churches in fact have been granted an exemption from this requirement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its allies are pushing for much broader exemptions, for example  to universities, social service agencies and other institutions with a religious affiliation—even if these institutions receive public funding.  Such a move could potentially affect millions of women, of all religious backgrounds (or none), who work in such institutions.

My young friends who have been involved in the Occupy movement tell me that issues of reproductive justice have been muted, if evident at all, at the various Occupy sites. But as the occupiers put forward their vision of a just society, the old feminist dictum bears repeating: women cannot be full participants in any society unless they can control their fertility. The New York Times quotes the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reporting on a meeting with President Obama, as saying the latter “was very open to the sensitivities of the Catholic community.”  President Obama, please be open as well to the tremendous struggles of women–members of both 99 Percent groups–who are desperate to control their childbearing in very harsh times.



These groups urge you to take action:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Feminist Majority Foundation

Emily’s List

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health



A Message about Birth Control from the 71%


Growing up a New Yorker, I was fortunate enough to live in a state that mandated insurance plans cover birth control. Growing up the daughter of a nurse who was employed by a Catholic hospital, I was not fortunate enough to ever actually reap the benefits of this policy. My mother is not a Catholic woman, and neither are the great majority of nurses, doctors and support staff she works with. However, New York state law also provided her Catholic employer the right exclude birth control coverage for their employees and families of diverse backgrounds based on the principal of religious freedom.

This summer, our country took strides toward gender equality beyond the New York law when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued guidelines under the Affordable Care Act requiring private insurance plans to cover a comprehensive range of women’s preventive carewithout a co-pay. But, as we have seen over and over this year, there are people in this country who are afraid that women’s equality will jeopardize their profits and the status quo that they benefit from.

Leading this charge is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association who are currently arguing to expand the religious exemption to include all religious institutions. Currently, the exemption would only include non-profit religious organizations that primarily employ and serve persons following those same religious tenets.

Being covered under my mother’s insurance for most of my life, our lack of coverage forced my mother and I to instead pay full price for contraception to keep me healthy. We paid an average of $60 a month, and it’s worthwhile to note that my mother was graced with three daughters. That’s four women unable to access basic preventive health care, at a cost of about $240 per month. My mother worked extremely hard and was committed to enabling us all to control our reproductive lives, which is why I was fortunate enough to never have experienced an unplanned pregnancy.

But millions of women who work for faith-based organizations do not necessarily have the resources to provide the help that my m0ther did. The intention of the Affordable Care Act is to allow individuals and families to access the care they need – as determined by their doctor’s advice and their own personal beliefs – regardless of their employment status or “pre-existing condition.” It can also easily be argued that denying coverage based upon a single religious belief is in fact a greater violation of religious freedom than allowing individuals to make those decisions for themselves.

It is dangerous and unfair to exclude millions of women and families from this care because of the beliefs of a powerful few at the top. Our values as Americans reflect this; not only do 71% of American voters support birth control coverage without co-pay, and that number goes up among Catholic women with 77% of Catholic women voters in support of the policy.

Tell our leaders to make the right choice. Birth control at no cost for ALL WOMEN.

Cross posted from Feminist Campus