In case you think nothing good came out of the Congressional budget
free for all negotiations that ended at the beginning of this week, think again. You will be cheered to know that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius seized the moment. While everyone was distracted by the Tea Party and the President taking political a$$hattery to a new low, Sibelius slipped a major reform enacted under the Affordable Care Act over the transom: no co-pays for insured women seeking gynecological care. As WebMD reported: “Health care reform requires new insurance plans to fully cover women’s preventive care, which now will include free birth control, yearly wellness visits, breastfeeding counseling and equipment, and screening for gestational diabetes, domestic abuse, HPV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and HIV.”
Great, huh? Yes except for those of you who are sexually active and work for Catholic, Mormon and evangelical Christian institutions. You might want to keep a $10 bill and a rabbit’s foot handy, and read up on the withdrawal method. RU-486 and other morning after pills are not included, although the legislation mandates free sterilization. You want choice? There’s a choice fer ya!
Anyone think we are reeling back in time to a moment, which Annelise Orleck has documented in her great book, Storming Caesar’s Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War On Poverty (2005), where poor women had the freedom to choose between not being sexually active, bearing children, or being sterilized — but could not get birth control from Medicaid? Except now we are potentially extending this right to choose to women of all economic classes.
How so? you ask. Read on: “Religious institutions that offer health insurance to their employees may choose not to offer birth control, according to an amendment to the prevention regulation proposed by the Obama administration. The HHS says it ‘welcomes comment on this policy.’”
Here’s my comment: I would welcome the President caring more about all women’s right to choose than about the power of a religious minority (i.e., anti-choice people of faith) to choose on behalf of all women. A question I would ask HHS, were there any place on their website where they were taking comments on this policy which there is not, is: When did a Democratic President decide that religious employers ought to be immune from the equal protection clause of the Constitution? We can haz national health care, but some of us haz rights and others has not.
Readers — and particularly those of you whose institutions will take advantage of President Obama’s gift to anti-choice Amerika — what comments would you like to send to HHS?