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Straight Talk: Keep Family Planning Accessible to All Women, Not Just Some

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Where I come from, in Butte, Montana, we don't mince words. So I'm going to be straight up here: there is nothing more common sense than making sure all women have access to the full range of health care, including birth control, and nothing more contrary to our American spirit than putting a thumb on the scale and tipping it in favor of some folks, at the expense of others.

Which is, unfortunately, what could happen if an expansion clause as wide as Montana is inserted into health care reform -- allowing a bigger and bigger swath of employers to deny women coverage for things like the Pill. Here's the lay of the land: over the last year, we all fought so hard to make sure that birth control was covered by health insurance providers. Some employers were allowed to opt out -- for example, churches. If you are actually employed by a church, your insurance can opt out of covering your birth control. Now, folks are trying to broaden that opt-out rule -- allowing huge numbers of "religious employers" to take birth control coverage away from their employees. The number of workers and students who would lose their birth control coverage is huge: nearly three million.

First, let's be clear. Just because your health insurance covers birth control doesn't mean you have to use it, any more than I have to get a root canal every year just because my dental insurance would pay for it. Having full, fair health care coverage lets women and their families have choices, that's all. Second -- again, a little clarity will go a long way here -- this isn't about abortion. This is about allowing women to have access to birth control -- something used by 99% of American women at some point.

See what I'm getting at here? This isn't a fight about abortion. This isn't a fight over government mandates. This is a fight about whether nearly three million employees and students -- many of whom currently have insurance coverage for their birth control -- will be denied that health care coverage because of their job.

This is a fight about whether an adjunct professor at a university will have to pay out of pocket for birth control pills -- when that same insurance plan covers the guy in the office next door's Viagra.

This is a fight about whether a minimum-wage worker, say a single mother working as a janitor in a hospital to support her kids, will have to decide between paying full-freight for her birth control or having that extra $60 bucks a month for her kids' school books and after-school snacks.

This is a fight about whether employers, aided by the federal government, get to impose their beliefs on their workers -- creating a system that allows some women to be treated like second class citizens.

Our community here at EMILY's List was so proud when together we worked, advocated, voted for health care reform that would level the economic playing field for families and keep them healthier.

Our Democratic women are working hard to make sure we keep family planning accessible for all women, not just some. Consider lending your voice to help make theirs louder.