I am neither a woman nor a Catholic. It would be insensitive, inappropriate, and indecent of me to simply write this off as the latest political attack from the right on President Obama. This issue transcends the typical conservative cries of ‘War on Religion’ ‘War on Christianity’ ‘Trampling the Constitution’. This is about another attempt by Social Conservatives and their cadre of warriors to assualt a woman's access to legally protected healthcare. I firmly believe that the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause was to protect religion from governmental interference and to prevent government from establishing a state religion. The false claims that the White House is forcing contraception on Catholics are as ludicrous as the mock outrage from the likes of John Boehner, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, etc. But let’s deal with the facts.
Legal precedence. In December 2000, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made it clear that an employer’s failure to provide coverage of contraception, when it covers other prescription drugs and preventive care, is a violation of protections against sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; those protections for employees’ benefits include no exemption for religious employers.
Further, according to the Department of Health and Human Services website, here are the facts about the provision in question found in the Affordable Care Act:
· Churches are exempt from the new rules: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.
· No individual health care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception: The President and this Administration have previously and continue to express strong support for existing conscience protections. For example, no Catholic doctor is forced to write a prescription for contraception.
· No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception: This rule only applies to what insurance companies cover. Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible. But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.
· Drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy: Drugs like RU486 are not covered by this policy, and nothing about this policy changes the President’s firm commitment to maintaining strict limitations on Federal funding for abortions. No Federal tax dollars are used for elective abortions.
· Over half of Americans already live in the 28 States that require insurance companies cover contraception: Several of these States like North Carolina, New York, and California have identical religious employer exemptions. Some States like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin have no exemption at all.
· Contraception is used by most women: According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception.
· Contraception coverage reduces costs: While the monthly cost of contraception for women ranges from $30 to $50, insurers and experts agree that savings more than offset the cost. The National Business Group on Health estimated that it would cost employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of potentially unintended and unhealthy pregnancy and indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity.
But wait, there’s more. Thanks to the Guttmacher Institute this issue is neither a new mandate nor an exceptionally controversial issue; the Guttmacher Institute’s research on the 28 states that already require insurers to cover all drugs and devices in the FDA-approved contraception’s list. The details:
· 28 states require insurers that cover prescription drugs to provide coverage of the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices; 17 of these states also require coverage of related outpatient services. 2 states exclude emergency contraception from the required coverage.
· 1 state excludes minor dependents from coverage.
· 20 states allow certain employers and insurers to refuse to comply with the mandate. 8 states have no such provision that permits refusal by some employers or insurers.
· 4 states include a “limited” refusal clause that allows only churches and church associations to refuse to provide coverage, and does not permit hospitals or other entities to do so.
· 7 states include a “broader” refusal clause that allows churches, associations of churches, religiously affiliated elementary and secondary schools, and, potentially, some religious charities and universities to refuse, but not hospitals.
· 8 states include an “expansive” refusal clause that allows religious organizations, including at least some hospitals, to refuse to provide coverage; 2 of these states also exempt secular organizations with moral or religious objections. (An additional state, Nevada, does not exempt any employers but allows religious insurers to refuse to provide coverage; 2 other states exempt insurers in addition to employers.)
· 14 of the 20 states with exemptions require employees to be notified when their health plan does not cover contraceptives.
· 4 states attempt to provide access for employees when their employer refuses to offer contraceptive coverage, generally by allowing employees to purchase the coverage on their own, but at the group rate.
· The 28 states requiring that contraception coverage be included in prescription drug plans are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Now that brings me to MSNBC’s resident Catholic and JFK expert Chris Matthews. Matthews, citing, his Catholic upbringing believes the President has made a terrible political move with this mandate. That remains to be seen. Matthews goes on to draw the analogy that the contraception mandate is like making a Synagogue serve ham. Ham? Are you kidding me? If you want to make the analogy work, try: A Jewish hospital wouldn’t be required to sell only kosher food. There is no legal precedent to make your analogy stand up. Secondly, the mandate is not forcing anyone to use contraception, only to make it available to your employees. And the church itself is exempt. Chris, stick to shilling your JFK book.
Finally, many major Catholic Universities such as DePaul, Georgetown and Fordham offer contraception coverage. Yes, DePaul University, the nation’s largest Catholic University, offers contraceptive coverage.
Like I said, I am neither Catholic nor a woman, and I think the attacks on the President are secondary to the attacks on woman’s healthcare and rights. The onslaught of attacks to Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood, proper medical screening and consultation are the real issue. The President serves for no more than eight years and politics are dirty. The issue here is who is going to fight for woman’s healthcare and access to unfettered and unconstrained reproductive services? I am, who’s with me?