Catholic Bishops Prioritize Defeating Birth Control Access
After a "closed, two-day meeting," Catholic Bishops made their top priority defeating birth control coverage in the preventive care package of the Affordable Care Act. The Bishops released a statement yesterday saying that they wanted to protect "religious freedom" and that "this dispute is not about access to contraceptives but about the governments forcing the church to provide them." The Obama Administration, in an accommodation, however, made clear that if a religiously-affiliated institute objects, the insurance company will provide the coverage directly to the employee or student without institutional involvement. The regulation requiring birth control coverage without co-pays or deductibles as a part of the preventive care package goes into effect August 2012.
Nevertheless, a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute indicated that 56 percent of people surveyed, including six in 10 Catholics, indicated that they do not believe that their religious liberty has been threatened. The study also found that "55% of Americans, including 58% of Catholics, agree that 'employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.'"
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops also announced plans to launch a broader campaign against state and local laws that they believe infringe on religious freedom, including restrictions limiting the rights of religious groups to use public schools as place of worship and those that limit religious organizations on college campuses.
In August 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new guidelines, developed by the Institute of Medicine, that will require private insurance plans under the Preventive Care package of the Affordable Care Act beginning on or after August 1, 2012 to cover without co-pays or deductibles a variety of services, such as an annual well-woman visit and cancer screenings, counseling, such as for domestic and interpersonal violence, and testing for HIV and STIs, as well as all FDA-approved contraceptives, breastfeeding support, lactation services, and supplies.
Media Resources: USA Today 3/15/12; Washington Post 3/14/12; Statement of US Conference of Catholic Bishops 3/14/12; Feminist Daily Newswire 1/20/12, 1/31/12
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .