I don’t usually write about politics here, but tonight I felt it was important to say something on behalf of women and families in this country.
In recent days you may have followed the heated debate over whether a female employee at a Catholic institution (hospital, university, charity, etc.) can have her birth control covered by her health insurance. The Obama administration reversed its original policy requiring religious institutions to pay for birth control, following an uproar by folks on the left as well as the right. The president’s new policy would have insurance companies pick up the tab for the monthly medication.
Personally, I was glad to hear his compromise plan. I’ve long championed women’s rights, ever since 5th grade when I founded the Independent Women’s Society (“IWS”) at my elementary school. (We had membership cards and met during recess, underneath the tree on the playground.) But like most folks, I didn’t think religious institutions should be required to pay for birth control.
The Obama compromise sounded so reasonable that I thought the Republicans in Congress would just drop the issue. How naive of me! Conservatives declared that Obama’s plan is not an acceptable compromise.
All of this seems like typical political nonsense — except that the issue is a terribly important one to women and families around this country. If the Republicans had their way and I were to work as a nurse for a Catholic hospital, my insurance plan would not cover my monthly birth control prescription.
Huh?? Are we in 2012 or 1912?? Didn’t we as a country decide long ago that contraception is an acceptable means of family planning that should be readily available to women? Don’t most people, women and men alike, think family planning (i.e., choosing when and if to have a child) is a good thing? What possible argument could Republicans conceivably (no pun intended) make against requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of birth control?
I guess they’re citing religious freedom, though under the compromise plan insurance companies would be paying for the medication, so this argument rings hollow. According to the Republicans’ own philosophy, shouldn’t they be equally or more concerned with individual freedoms — in this case, the freedom of a woman to choose when and if she brings a child into the world?
Let’s be frank. While I greatly appreciate my health insurance coverage that allows me to pay only $50 per month for my birth control (hear that, Rick Santorum?? Not just “a few dollars” to me!), I would certainly find a way to cover the cost if the insurance dropped contraception from its coverage. I don’t think N and S want another little sibling right now!
But I’m not the primary beneficiary of this policy. It’s the woman who really does work at a Catholic hospital, living in Queens on a fixed income with five kids. Maybe married, maybe not. Maybe drawing on welfare or other social programs just to pay the bills. Without this coverage, she may decide that she and her family can’t afford the medication any longer. Weren’t these same right-wingers bashing “welfare moms” who — according to Republicans — kept popping out kids just to get a government check??
Even more likely, I’ll bet that many talented young women will simply decide to leave their jobs at Catholic institutions and take jobs elsewhere, where reasonable health care plans are provided.
I will get off my soap box now. I just hope that women and their families (who also may not be ready for another sibling anytime soon!) recognize that, between the political parties, there’s a lot at stake this election year.
P.S. — My incredibly smart and talented friend Keli Goff posted a piece on HuffPost today titled “10 Facts About Contraception (And How It Changed the World) That Every Man and Woman Should Know.” It’s thought-provoking — and provides some good talking points on this issue!