Don’t let it be said the House Republicans will ever pass up a chance to play politics with women’s health. Despite a looming government shutdown and across-the-board spending cuts thanks to the GOP’s inability to cut a budget deal, a group of House Republicans is insisting any bill that funds the federal government should include provisions that would target the contraception mandate in Obamacare.
Yes, even now the only thing conservatives can focus on is The Pill.
On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers reintroduced a bill that would repeal the contraception mandate. They also pressed party leadership to roll back the provision as part of the continuing resolution later this month to keep the federal government open.
Fortunately, women’s groups and advocates are used to conservatives’ games when it comes to women’s health care and were ready with a response. Spearheaded by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a broad coalition of nearly 40 groups, urged leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees via a letter to stand strong against the ongoing efforts by opponents of women’s health to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s no co-pay birth control provision. “As you know, the Affordable Care Act included a historic investment in prevention, including a provision requiring health insurers offering individual or group health plans to cover certain preventive health care services, including contraceptive services, with no cost-sharing to the individual,” the coalition wrote in the letter.
“Because of this landmark provision of the law, women will have insurance coverage for the full-range of FDA-approved contraceptives … As part of the implementation of the ACA, the Obama Administration recently released a proposed rule clarifying that, regardless of where a woman works, she will have access to birth control without cost-sharing.”
The letter concludes, “Including language in a continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations measure to restrict women’s access to birth control would be bad policy and is contrary to our shared goals of improving women’s health. We respectfully urge you to reject efforts to politicize the appropriations process for the remainder of fiscal year 2013 and oppose riders that are harmful to women’s health.”
The healthcare law requires most employers to cover contraception in their employees’ health plans, without charging a co-pay or deductible, thus treating contraception like other preventive services. Churches and houses of worship are exempt and religious-affiliated employers, such as Catholic hospitals, don’t have to pay for the coverage directly, but their insurance companies must still offer it to employees without any cost-sharing.
Religious groups want a much broader exemption and one that would allow any employer to opt out of the mandate based on his or her religious beliefs, regardless if the business is secular and for-profit. Democrats and supporters of the health law say that would give employers far too much power over their workers’ access to health services. “The government’s role should be to protect natural rights, not to take them away,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said at a press conference announcing the reintroduction of a bill to repeal the contraception mandate.
The bill would also allow doctors and nurses to sue if they are forced to perform an abortion over their religious objections. Conservatives tried this kind of exclusion once before and it was rejected, and courts have been pretty clear that secular, for-profit institutions do not have broad 1st Amendment religious rights. Many states already have conscience protections that allow certain doctors and nurses to opt out of procedures like abortion if they have a religious objection.
What does all that mean? It means Republicans in Congress are once again wasting taxpayer time and money with political grandstanding over contraception, and it proves they care about nothing more than continuing a war over women’s bodies.
Photo from M.Markus via flickr.