Friday, November 25, 2011

Will Obama cave to bishops on non-copay contraception?

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Various contraceptives
Pictured: Violation of religious liberty

Here’s some more depressing news from the women’s reproductive health front-lines (’cause we can’t ever get enough). Facing pressure from the “religious liberty!”-crying U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), President Obama is now considered at risk for caving (shocking, I’m sure) and stripping coverage of birth control without co-pay from the healthcare reform law:

Women's groups working to save coverage of women's health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay by so expanding the current exemption for churches that millions of women who work for organizations affiliated with the Church and other anti-choice groups who claim a religious leaning would be denied coverage.

The reason? The President thinks he "owes" the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.


Female voters made up 53 percent of all voters responsible for Obama's victory in 2008.

Moreover, groups representing many millions of women throughout the country worked tirelessly--exhaustively--for well over a year to support the President's health reform initiative. They did this even when women lost benefits in the process, supporting the President and able in the end to point at least to gains in coverage of fundamental preventive care such as birth control without a co-pay as a victory.

Now, a President who doesn't seem to be able to resist pressure to cave on any number of key policy issues is considering actually further diminishing this victory in a kind of bait and switch--promising women they would not lose coverage, but in fact by caving to the Bishops, taking away coverage millions of women already have.

This is a tax on women. Birth control without insurance coverage can run as much as $600.00 per year. Without consistent access to birth control, women face constant risk of unintended pregnancy, abrogating their fundamental rights to plan their families and make decisions about how many children to have and when; to decide about their own educational and economic paths; to safeguard their own and their family's health. Such a tax will of course fall most heavily on low-income women, and therefore most heavily on Latina, African American, and Native American women who already make up a disproportionate share of this economic group.

To be pedantic for a minute, I agree with Ed Brayton that this really can’t be called a “tax”, but an additional fee. One should avoid using rhetoric that is not actually warranted. But nonetheless, the idea that Obama would bow down before yet another perennially whinging religious group and sacrifice what is very clearly a needed and helpful program in the process shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who recognizes that this President has so far displayed all the spine of a jellyfish.

I’m just hoping this analysis is wrong … though I can’t say I’m in any way optimistic.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)