Fourteen Republican members of the House of Representatives reintroduced a bill on Tuesday that would exempt unwilling employers from a requirement that their employee health insurance plans include contraceptive coverage. They are also trying to get the language included in the Continuing Resolution to extend funding for operation of the federal government. The bill's cosponsors said in a letter, "Nothing short of a full exemption for both nonprofit and for-profit entities will satisfy the demands of the Constitution and common sense."
A broad coalition of women's groups led by Planned Parenthood released their own letter (see PDF) in response to the move. The letter concluded, "Including language in a continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations measure to restrict women's access to birth control would be bad policy and is contrary to our shared goals of improving women's health. We respectfully urge you to reject efforts to politicize the appropriations process for the remainder of fiscal year 2013 and oppose riders that are harmful to women's health."
The Department of Health and Human Services released proposed rules in January to operationalize that health insurance coverage under the ACA must provide birth control without co-pays or deductibles. Under the proposed rules, employees who work at religiously affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities/colleges will be covered seamlessly by the insurance provider or plan administrator. The sole exception within the proposed rules is narrowly construed to only houses of worship that object and can deny coverage to their employees.
Media Resources: The Hill 3/5/2013; Coalition Letter 3/5/2013; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/1/2013
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. . . .