THE BLOG
03/08/2013 07:55 pm ET Updated May 08, 2013

On Women's Day: We Need to Focus on Birth Control

Women and men of all races and religions turned out in droves in November to reject ignorant bigoted candidates who professed that God sanctions rape. After two years of attacks in Congress and the states on birth control and abortion, we showed that many voters respond positively to hearing about coverage for abortion.

We've won some shifts in policy in 2013: We forced Congress to enact an improved and expanded Violence Against Women Act. It's great to hear the administration speak approvingly of pay equity, and the basic human right to choose "whom we love."

But the sex- and gender-based attacks have continued almost without missing a beat. Arkansas is just the latest state to hurl breathtaking restrictions at abortion services, attempting to ban them after 12 weeks, and to ban funding for Planned Parenthood.

The Obama administration has proposed a regulation on birth control that treats us like the property of our employer. We need to help them to a more respectful posture.

The Affordable Care Act covers preventive health care services without co-payments and deductibles. Scientists and other experts at the independent Institute of Medicine have recommended to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) designating contraception as a preventive service that helps keep women healthy. In fact, nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives, but more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford it.

The proposed rule would grant a wide range of religiously affiliated employers an exemption from this rule, and the right to deny their employees coverage that is identical to what they'd get in any other health plan. The latest round of the proposed regulations specifies different categories of religiously affiliated employers.

Subsequent rounds of regulations are slated to determine how these employees can gain access to individual contraception coverage through a convoluted system relying on insurers and other third parties to pick up the tab. Inevitably, though, some women will lose out.

Equally importantly, this concession continues to stigmatize both women and birth control.

Few groups would take this fight head-on last year, when the gravest threat came from a party united behind overturning Roe v Wade entirely. It's time to stop dancing a minuet with the administration, and determine how to shield employees of all faiths or none who happen to work for a tax-exempt religiously affiliated university or hospital from the delusional patriarchal fantasies of their employers about human reproduction and biology.

The opposition enjoys the sway of many people's emotional ties to religious organizations that have in fact lurched to the right in recent decades. It's important to seek a path that distinguishes respect and reverence for the institutions, from allegiance to discriminatory beliefs and practices. There is also ample corporate funding. There are more deceptive "crisis pregnancy centers" in the U.S. than there are abortion providers.

But these views challenge women's ability to be full, equal, constitutional persons in the United States of America.

Comments for regulations on this issue are due on April 8. Sign our petition here, or write your own.

It's time to stand and fight. Fair and equal coverage for birth control must be our next victory of 2013.

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