Obama’s Compromise Provides Universal Insurance Coverage on Birth ControlPosted: February 10, 2012
Statement by Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, on Obama Administration Announcement on Birth Control Coverage Benefit:
“In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women’s health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work.
“We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth control benefits.
“However we will be vigilant in holding the administration and the institutions accountable for a rigorous, fair and consistent implementation of the policy, which does not compromise the essential principles of access to care.
“The individual rights and liberties of all women and all employees in accessing basic preventive health care is our fundamental concern.
“Planned Parenthood continues to believe that those institutions who serve the broad public, employ the broad public, and receive taxpayer dollars, should be required to follow the same rules as everyone else, including providing birth control coverage and information.
“As a trusted health care provider to one in five women, Planned Parenthood’s priority is increasing access to preventive health care. This birth control coverage benefit does just that.
“The birth control benefit underscores the fact that birth control is basic health care, and is fundamental to improving women’s health and the health of their families.
“That’s why women have consistently applauded the Obama administration for one of the greatest expansions for women’s health in decades.
“Unfortunately there are significant and immediate threats to women’s health and access to birth control in the House and Senate that would completely take away access to birth control and severely undermine women’s health.
“One bill, the Rubio-Manchin bill, would allow any business or corporation, on the basis of personal religious belief or moral conviction, to take away birth control coverage from their employees.
“Employers should not be allowed to impose their personal beliefs on employees regarding birth control coverage or basic health care.
“Another bill, sponsored by Senator Blunt (R-MO), would drastically undermine women’s health and allow any employer or health plan to refuse to cover any health care service they object to on religious or moral grounds.
“That’s why Planned Parenthood, and women across the country, won’t let up for one minute in our fight to protect the birth control benefit and women’s health.
As far as I can tell, this change does several things. First, coverage occurs now and the one year adjustment period has ended. Women in these religiously affiliated institutions will get coverage now instead of a year from now. The Insurance industry has dropped co-pays and for plans for religious organizations, insurers must contact all their insured and offer contraception with no co-pay. Second, the outrage at the fetus fetishist sites is on high. Third, all the major women’s groups and abortion rights groups see this as good. I’m relieved and I was really seeing RED this morning.
Just because I’ve been on a major roll about the idea of “religious conscientious objections” and SCOTUS, I thought that I’d share this with you in case any complaint reaches SCOTUS. It’s from TPM and it’s called How Scalia Helped Obama Defend The Birth Control Rule. This “accommodation” will prevent any litigation from reaching SCOTUS.
The Obama administration is already facing lawsuits challenging its requirement that insurance plans cover birth control as a violation of religious freedom. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has flatly called the regulation unconstitutional. But although it’s unclear how much traction the legal challenges will gain, especially in light of the White House adjusting the mandate Friday, the President and his backers have one unlikely man to thank for helping their cause: Justice Antonin Scalia.
“One thing I think is crystal clear — there is no First Amendment violation by this law,” Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, told TPM. “The Supreme Court was very clear in a case called Employment Division v. Smith, written by none other than Antonin Scalia, that religious believers and institutions are not entitled to an exemption from generally applicable laws.”
The Reagan-appointed conservative justice authored the majority opinion in the 1990 decision Employment Division v. Smith, a critical precedent to the birth control case, decreeing that religious liberty is insufficient grounds for being exempt from laws. The Supreme Court said Oregon may deny unemployment benefits to people who were fired for consuming peyote as part of a religious tradition, seeing as the drug was illegal in the state.
“To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself,” wrote Scalia, an avowed Catholic and social conservative, quoting from a century-old Supreme Court decision and giving it new life. His opinion was cosigned by four other justices.
Thanks to this decision more than any other, Winkler said there’s no reason to believe the constitutional argument against the rule has any legs. And while the high court later ruled to create a ministerial exception in anti-discrimination laws (to shield the Church from liability in forbidding women to become priests), it has not altered the Smith precedent insofar as it applies to the birth control rule. “So it would seem extremely difficult” for the courts to overturn it on that basis, Winkler posited. “I don’t think there’s any real argument.”
Also, I woke up outraged and at the moment, after spending the entire morning looking ALL of this over, I’m relieved. For all the talk of it being an accommodation, it seems to follow court precedent on accommodations but in reality seems to expand and speed up access. Here’s a link to The Center for Reproductive rights and their press release.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The Obama Administration is as good as its word. Millions of women across the country will have equal access to contraception without co-pay, without fear that their employers may refuse to cover this critical health service.
“Now, the relentless crusade against women’s access to birth control must end. Members of Congress must support full and equal health care for all American women and immediately reject any further efforts to deny coverage of contraception as a critical preventive healthcare service.”
Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently introduced legislation that would prohibit the federal government from mandating that employers cover no-copay birth control in their insurance plans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blocked an attempt yesterday by Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to add an amendment to an unrelated highway bill that would allow exceptions to the coverage if employers were religiously or morally opposed to it.
“We will be watching the implementation of the Administration’s regulation closely to ensure that no woman is denied access to contraceptive coverage by her employer,” Northup said.