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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness, Repro Health Watch

Through the Looking Glass on Contraceptive Coverage

February 6, 2012 | Reproductive Health

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Birth control is basic health care for women. So the recent firestorm of criticism about the administration's decision that insurers must cover all FDA-approved contraceptives without co-pay is, at best, overwrought.

The religious community, led by the Catholic Church, has overreacted in ways that have distorted the administration's actions. Contrary to their claims, no individual health care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception, nor will any woman be forced to buy or use contraception.

Perhaps more importantly, to set the record straight, no church or other house of worship will be required to offer employees coverage for contraceptive health services. That's the carve-out for religious institutions. It's a big one. (Religiously affiliated institutions, including large hospitals and universities, that employ people of different faiths, will have to provide coverage.)

So why the furor? At its core, it's because many opponents of a woman's right to choose also oppose contraception. They don't want women to exercise their consciences or get the contraceptive coverage they need.

These are extreme views far outside the mainstream.

So let's be clear. Ensuring women's access to contraception means fewer unintended pregnancies, healthier women and stronger families.

That's why there's an overwhelming consensus in this country that women should have coverage for contraception. Twenty-eight states already require insurers to cover contraception. Ensuring that coverage for women in every state, without expensive co-pays, is one of the most important advances for women in the health reform law.

That advance is long overdue. Nearly all women of reproductive age use contraception - including 98 percent of Catholic women. Reproductive health care is women's health care.

Refusing to allow employers to substitute their views for those of women was the right thing to do.

So it's time for all of us to take a stand. It's time to urge every member of Congress to say no' to Senator Marco Rubio's irresponsible legislation, which would dramatically expand the birth-control refusal clause and potentially allow any employer to use personal religious beliefs to deny contraceptive coverage to employees.

At times these days, it feels like we've stepped through the looking glass. Those who oppose abortion want to deny women the contraceptive coverage that reduces unintended pregnancies. The Susan G. Komen organization withdraws funds to Planned Parenthood, which screens millions of women for breast cancer.

These are bad decisions, bad policy, bad for women's health.

If you care about women's health, you put your ideology aside and you help make contraception and breast cancer screening available.

The Administration's rule exempting churches and other religious institutions from the refusal clause is a compromise that should not be weakened.


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