Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund recently talked about “The Other 99%” in her post about forces going after restricting access to birth control. Fact: “99% of women in the U.S. who have been sexually active have used birth control. It’s used by women of every demographic, every geographic location, every income level — and every religious group.” She asks, “So does it sound crazy that a small group of religious leaders and tea-party Republicans are fighting to eliminate women’s access to birth control? Crazy but true…
The reality now: Regulations require insurance plans offered by employers to cover contraception. However, they exempt churches and other clearly religious institutions from this requirement.
What is happening: The Conference of Catholic Bishops and other groups have been lobbying for a much broader definition of the exemption. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) originally crafted the exemption and defined “a religious employer as applying to nonprofit organizations that have ” instilling religious values as their purpose and whose employees and clients share their religious tenets.”
Lobbyists are trying to expand this definition to include “religiously affiliated” colleges, universities, medical schools, hospitals, social service organizations, and schools such that it will prevent them from offering birth control coverage for their employees as well. As Ms. Richards makes clear, they are trying to push for this, “despite the fact that these institutions in large part neither employ nor serve individuals who share their religious beliefs. In fact, they are open to and serve the public.”
The truth is even 98% of sexually-active Catholic women have used methods of birth control prohibited by the Vatican. And the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has declared that “the exclusion of insurance coverage for prescription contraceptive drugs and devices in an employer health plan that covers prescription drugs” spells sex discrimination.
Why would forces still want to find new ways to restrict access to birth control? Some say it’s a Vatican “power grab.” I think somehow, someway, that this attempt to expand the exemption is a part in a legal master plan to ultimately roll back Roe v Wade. Both are about taking away the fundamental right to control one’s reproductive life.
Efforts like this send me through the roof. Join me and stand with these groups who are sending the White House the message to stop the “1%” on this one–the current exemption is more than enough when it comes to religious liberty, and that expanding refusal clauses is not what 99% of Americans want as a part of healthcare reform.