Right-Wing Bullies Attack Access to Basic Women’s Health Care
Right-wing attacks on abortion and access to basic women’s health care aren’t anything thing new, but in the year since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and state legislatures across the country, we’ve seen these attacks turn into a full-fledged war on women. In just the U.S. House alone, Republicans passed bills that would literally redefine rape and even let women die if a hospital refuses to perform an lifesaving emergency abortion.
Now we are seeing disturbing attacks on access to basic health care procedures like breast cancer screenings and, even more shockingly, birth control.
Here’s the rundown.
Blocking Affordable Access to Birth Control
As we reported a couple weeks ago, women (and men) won a huge victory when the Obama administration announced a rule requiring nearly-universal, no-cost health insurance coverage for contraceptives. Included in the new rule was an exemption for houses of worship and organizations that primarily employ and serve members of their own faith. Entities, like large religious universities or hospitals, that don’t currently offer coverage of contraception would be granted a one-year waiver to figure out how to comply with the new rules.
The Catholic Bishops, right-wing groups, and leading Republican presidential contenders Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney immediately assailed this important health care decision, falsely accusing the Obama administration of waging a “war on religion.”
ThinkProgress Health Editor Igor Volsky explains why these right-wing critics and their histrionic attacks on the president are wrong:
1) Religious liberty is protected in the regulation: “The Departments seek to provide for a religious accommodation that respects the unique relationship between a house of worship and its employees in ministerial positions,” the interim regulations says. As a result, houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith will be exempt and religiously-affiliated employers who do not qualify for the exemption and are not currently offering contraceptive coverage may apply for transitional relief for a one-year period to give them time to determine how to comply with the rule.
2) The regulation expands conscience protections in 8 states: Twenty-eight states already require employers, including most religiously affiliated institutions, to cover contraception in their health plans. The only change is that now they must cover the full cost. In fact, the administration will be expanding conscience protections in eight states, where all religious institutions are required to offer birth control coverage.
3) The regulation does not cover abortions: No matter how much Republicans are hoping to conflate contraception with abortion, Plan B is not an abortifacient. It works in exactly the same way as regular birth control pills.
4) Greater access to contraception reduces unwanted pregnancies and abortions: An overwhelming majority of Americans — virtually all women(more than 99 percent and 98 percent of Catholics) — rely on contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancies and the regulation protects the religious liberty of women who use birth control for reasons of private conscience. One study has estimated that birth control provided at publicly funded clinic helped prevent almost two million unintended pregnancies and that number will only grow as a result of the new rules.
5) Courts have upheld contraception coverage rules: Courts have upheldchallenges to coverage laws, finding that a neutral, generally applicable law not targeted at religion does not burden the right to free exercise of religion. In fact, there is the possibility that a broader exemption would violate the law and allow religious institutions to pick and choose which regulations to follow. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found that the exclusion of prescription contraception from an employer-sponsored health plan constitutes sex discrimination because it only burdens women.
Progressives Stand Up to Right-Wing Attacks on Basic Women’s Health Care
Yesterday brought the disturbing news that the nation’s largest cancer charity, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, was cutting off nearly $700,000 in funding that local Planned Parenthood affiliates use to provide breast cancer screenings. The group, which recently hired an anti-choice Senior Vice President for Public Policy who ran for governor of Georgia in 2010 on a platform of defunding Planned Parenthood (including funds for cancer screenings), cited a new policy that bars funds for any group under investigation by local, state, and federal authorities. The “investigation” Komen cited is nothing more than a political witch hunt launched by House Republicans at the behest of extreme anti-abortion advocates.
Conservatives immediately cheered the decision.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards expressed her shock at the news, calling it “really hurtful.”
The good news is that people across the country rose up to defend Planned Parenthood against this kind of right-wing bullying. One foundation made an emergency $250,000 donation to cover breast cancer screenings and then another 6,000 donors stepped up in the last 24 hours with an additional $150,000. Richards emailed supporters today to thank them and say the group would fight on:
It doesn’t matter what the anti-choice, anti-women’s health forces out there do. As parents, we tell our kids not to give in to bullies — and we shouldn’t, either. I promise you that we won’t, no matter what.
Progressive groups, including MoveOn, UltraViolet, CredoAction, and the campaigning arm of Daily Kos blasted their supporters to ask them to stand up and fight back against the attacks. Members of Congress, including Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Mike Honda (D-CA) and Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) also expressed their anger and dismay at Komen’s decision. Noted author Judy Blume took to Twitter, commenting: “Susan Komen would not give in to bullies or to fear. Too bad the foundation bearing her name did.”
Meanwhile, according to one analysis of social media reaction, just 27 percent said Komen’s decision was right, while 30 percent said it was wrong and an additional 23 percent said they’d stop donating to Komen as a result. Another 11 percent said it would hurt low-income women.
For its part, after receiving thousands of negative comments on Facebook, Komen issued a non-apology today that seemed to attack Planned Parenthood:
Making this issue political or leveraging it for fundraising purposes would be a disservice to women.
This afternoon, two local Susan G. Komen affiliates announced their opposition to the parent group’s decision.
IN ONE SENTENCE: While conservatives are manufacturing false charges of a war on religion, progressives are standing strong against right-wing bullies and their very real war on women.
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