The Next Birth Control Battle: Religious Exemptions

We got excited this week about the Obama administration accepting guidelines for private insurance to eliminate contraceptive co-pays. It's still good news, but there's always a catch: It only applies to new health insurance plans, and antichoicers are predictably making a stink, not only about the all-but-certain rise in babykilling whorishness this will induce, but about what it means for their own insurance plans.

Although the policy principally affects new insurance plans starting August 1, 2012, according to Guttmacher, plans grandfathered in will lose that status in a few years.

According to a Thompson Reuters study, no-copay birth control is extremely popular, with 77 percent of Americans believing that private medical insurance should provide it.

In the remaining minority: Some very loud, misinformed people. Some of them intentionally lying.

The Next Birth Control Battle: Religious ExemptionsS

As of this writing, Fox News' headline is still carrying this inaccurate headline, "White House: Insurers Must Cover Abortion Pill," which in turn is a syndication of this inaccurate Washington Times story, called out by Media Matters. (Media Matters called it an op-ed, but it's worse — it's classified as a "news" story.) Bizarrely, not only is an abortion-inducing drug, RU-486, not covered under the guidelines, the actual story indicates that it doesn't. Illiterate headline-writing or deliberate distortion?

In the same camp: Elected representatives like Iowa Rep. Steve King, who said on the House floor who warned that making it easier to access contraception would make us a "dying civilization." Forced pregnancy makes excellent policy.

The first sentence of the press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops described the HHS as requiring coverage of "female surgical sterilization and all drugs and devices approved by the FDA as contraceptives, including drugs which can attack a developing unborn child before and after implantation in the mother's womb." The former is strongly implying Obama wants to prevent you from ever having babies, and the latter would be referring to emergency contraception, which only prevents implantation and won't work if you're already pregnant. (Antichoicers argue that in the unknown number of circumstances where there is a fertilized egg, a woman is already pregnant and preventing implantation is abortion. In other words, a two-day-old fertilized egg that may or may not exist is an "developing unborn child" under "attack.")

And here's the mantra about classifying contraception as preventative services, per the good Cardinal Daniel diNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities: "Pregnancy is not a disease, and children are not a 'health problem' –- they are the next generation of Americans." Whether you want it or not! Even if you were raped! Even if you take your birth control for endometriosis! Even if you have health issues that would make a pregnancy deeply hazardous or already have more children than you can provide for! Or whatever your own reasons are, this celibate gentleman knows better.

Just about all the groups that hailed the policy change — Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU, and the Center for Reproductive Rights — mentioned reservations about the vague "interim final rule" that would "give religious organizations the choice of buying or sponsoring group health insurance that does not cover contraception if that is inconsistent with their tenets." In other words, women on those plans are shit out of luck and will have to pay for their fornication themselves. Even if they're married.

A religious employer is defined as "one that: (1) has the inculcation 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 nonprofit organization under the Internal Revenue Code." There are two reasons why this isn't enough for anti-choicers: They think the definition of a religious group is too narrow, and they worry about the impact on Catholic health services. In the Bishops' press release, the Cardinal seized on the admittedly vague "primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets" clause, saying, "Our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics....Could the federal government possibly intend to pressure Catholic institutions to cease providing health care, education and charitable services to the general public?"

Separately, groups that oppose contraception but aren't strictly religious are also peeved. Attorneys for American United For Life told Life News that their own group's insurance policy wouldn't be exempt along with religious schools, hospitals and charitable organizations. LifeNews called it a "fig-leaf conscience protection." And we all know where fig-leafs go — they touch your genitals. Can we ban those too?

Wash. Times, Fox Nation Falsely Call Plan B An "Abortion Pill" [Media Matters]
GOP Rep Steve King: Free Birth Control Will Make America A Dying Civiliation [Think Progress]
Obama Admin Will Force Coverage Of Birth Control, Abortion Drugs [LifeNews]
Cardinal Criticizes Contraceptive Mandate, Calls Exemption Too Narrow [Catholic News Service]
USCCB: HHS Mandate For Contraceptive And Abortifacient Drugs Violates Conscience Rights [Press Release]
Earlier: It's Official: Your Birth Control Will Be Fully Covered