So, last week I told you all about the latest huge victory for women -- that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted the recommendations of the experts at the Institute of Medicine and will be requiring all new private health insurance policies to cover, without out-of-pocket costs, all FDA-approved birth control options along with other preventative services for women.
Well, it seems that there is a clause in this recommendation that allows religious employers to be exempt from providing contraceptive services. According to the HHS, a religious employer (1) has the inculcation (i.e., teaching) of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under certain Internal Revenue Code sections.
Well, the reality of such a clause could leave many women without the contraception they deserve and need. In fact, research by the Guttmacher Institute reveals that 99% of women use contraception during their reproductive years, and that women of faith (including Catholic women) use birth control at nearly the same rate as the general population. In fact, only approximately 2% of Catholic women rely on natural family planning. A woman's choice to use contraception should be protected an not based on where she is employed. It's essential that all women have access to affordable contraception to prevent unintended pregnancies, plan the timing and size of their families and protect their health.
According to Reverend Dr. Carlton W. Veazey, President and CEO of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, "Family planning is a moral value that diverse religions recognize as a tool to build strong families, protect the health of women and children, reduce child and spousal abuse, prevent unwanted pregnancies, and reduce the need for abortion." He further explains, "While we support the bulk of the interim rule, we do not support the exemption for religious employers as it is harmful for women's health and it further erodes the conscience rights of individuals in favor of corporations' rights."
Do you feel that this is a social injustice to women? If you believe that a woman's health insurance should include access to all FDA-approved contraceptives without a co-pay as well as contraceptive counseling REGARDLESS to where she works, then there is something that you can do. Make your voice heard and tell the HHS what you think. There are various ways to do this. Some sites have a letter prepared for you to email and/or allow you to personalize your own letter or add comments. Here are some places that provide places where you can tell the HHS that this clause is unacceptable:
- National Women's Law Center: Submit Comments to HHS - All Women Need Access to Contraception without Co-pays
- If you are a woman of faith and would like HHS to know that you are against this clause, try using the link from Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice: Tell HHS that all women deserve contraceptives without co-pays
- Regulation.gov - your voice in federal decision making: Comment on: Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive Services under Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Amendment
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