Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments from Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the two most prominent plaintiff’s involved in the case over access to birth control. The plaintiff’s argue that they should be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s birth control provision, which requires for-profit corporations with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance including contraception coverage. We are expected to hear a ruling in the next two months, but in the meantime the debate will continue and it’s important to know what’s going on. The plaintiff’s case, and the political discussion of birth control coverage, are full of rhetoric and sorely lacking in scientific evidence — so before you caught up in the debate, be sure to know the basic facts behind the case.
KEY FACTS ON BIRTH CONTROL COVERAGE BENEFIT
FACT: The majority of Americans and Catholics support the birth control benefit. A Public Religion Research Institute (released 2/7/12) shows that 58 percent of Catholics believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception. A Public Policy Poll (released 2/7/12) shows that 57 percent of voters believe women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women.
FACT: Birth control use is nearly universal in the United States, even among Catholic women. Ninety-nine percent of all sexually experienced women and 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholic women will have used birth control at some point in their lives.
FACT: The current policy already includes an expansive exemption, allowing approximately 335,000 churches/houses of worship to refuse to provide birth control for their employees.
MYTHS and ATTACKS on the BIRTH CONTROL COVERAGE BENEFIT and the REAL FACTS
As birth control opponents continue their attack on women’s birth control coverage benefit, they are resorting to spreading inaccurate information and using misleading rhetoric. Below are the real facts about the birth control coverage benefit, and the religious exemptions.
MYTH: Birth control opponents are trying to “twist the facts” and wrongly claim that this benefit would cover abortifacients and abortion inducing drugs.
FACT: This benefit in no way requires coverage of abortifacients. The requirement is that health plans must cover all FDA approved prescription contraceptive methods. Contraception is not abortion. Birth control opponents wrongly claim that Plan B is an abortifacient, when the FDA says it is a form of birth control, since it cannot and does not induce an abortion. Opponents of contraception repeatedly try to switch the debate to abortion, in order to inflame the rhetoric. That’s just inaccurate. [FDA, Plan B Q& A, 8/24/06]
MYTH: Catholic voters oppose this benefit, since it intrudes on their religious freedom.
FACT: This benefit is popular with majority of Americans, including majority of Catholics. A poll by Public Religion Research Institute shows that 58 percent of Catholics believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception. Another poll by Public Policy Polling shows 56 percent of voters support the birth control coverage benefit, including 53 percent of Catholic voters, and 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents. This should come as no surprise, since 98% of sexually experienced Catholic women will have used birth control at some point in their lives.
MYTH: This benefit is a government mandate gone too far.
FACT: A 53 percent majority of Catholics agree that women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women. Fifty-seven percent of all voters, Democrat and Republican, think that women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women.
The reality is that this benefit is consistent with current policy, including existing federal refusal laws (almost none of which capture birth control), and the laws in the states. In fact, 28 states already have laws requiring contraception be covered by health insurance, and there is not any controversy about that. Of the 28 states with contraceptive equity laws, eight don’t have a refusal provision at all. More importantly, only eight states have laws on the books that require contraceptive equity but also could go so far as to allow religiously-affiliated hospitals to refuse to comply with these coverage requirements.
MYTH: This is a violation of religious freedom and the First Amendment.
FACT: Courts have ruled that virtually identical exclusions in state contraceptive equity laws do not violate the First Amendment or substantially burden a religious belief or practice. For example, the New York Court of Appeals (the highest court in the state) explained, “when a religious organization chooses to hire nonbelievers it must, at least to some degree, be prepared to accept neutral regulations imposed to protect those employees’ legitimate interests in doing what their own beliefs permit.” Catholic Charities of Albany v. Serio, 859 N.E.2d 459, 468 (N.Y. 2006).
Birth control opponents also ignore the religious freedom of the individual worker, and their right to make their own health care decisions. This provision does not require any religiously affiliated institution to provide birth control. This about health insurance coverage, which is one step removed.
MYTH: There is no religious exemption.
FACT: The current benefit includes an expansive religious exemption, allowing 335,000 churches and houses of worships to refuse to provide this benefit their employees, even if they don’t share the same faith (such as a janitor or secretary). Expanding the refusal provision would mean that religiously affiliated hospitals and universities that operate as a business and serve and employ the broader public would be allowed to deny their employees access to this common benefit. Millions of American workers would lose access to this critical benefit under such an expansion.
MYTH: This benefit is forcing religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to do something they currently aren’t doing.
FACT: As NPR reported, many Catholic hospitals, such as Catholic Healthcare West and universities currently provide birth control coverage to their employees. It is a standard and expected benefit, even for employees at Catholic hospitals and universities.
MYTH: Opponents of the birth control coverage benefit are only interested in expanding the refusal provision for religiously-affiliated entities.
FACT: The same organizations that are pushing for an expanded refusal provision have actually pushed for the entire birth control coverage benefit to be repealed. For example, the bulk of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ comments on the birth control coverage regulation focused on demanding that birth control not be considered a women’s preventive benefit.
MYTH: Birth control is not basic health care for women.
FACT: The Institute of Medicine (IOM) considers birth control an essential part of women’s health care. For this reason, major medical societies, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Nurses Association, the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, oppose an expansion of the refusal provision.
Because it is such basic health care, excluding birth control from coverage has long been considered discrimination against women. Prescription contraceptives are used exclusively by women, who uniquely have the potential to become pregnant. The failure to provide coverage for prescription contraception in health plans that otherwise cover prescription drugs and devices singles out and treats less favorably medication needed for a pregnancy-related condition. It is for this reason that the EEOC has recognized the denying women contraceptive coverage constitutes sex discrimination. [Decision on Coverage of Contraception, Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (Dec. 14, 2000).]
- New Study Confirms Overwhelming Support For Affordable Care Act’s Birth Control Coverage (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Top Catholic Leader: Women Don’t Need Insurance Coverage — Because They Can Just Buy Birth Control At 7-11 (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- New Report Shows Why Access To Contraception Is More Important Than Ever (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Why Did This Catholic Hospital Try To Ban Birth Control For An Entire Town? (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Profiting From Abortion Drugs While Denying Contraceptive Coverage: The Details On Hobby’s Lobby’s Jaw-dropping Hypocrisy (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- A Hobby Lobby Win Would Immediately Put Birth Control Coverage In Jeopardy At 71 Other Companies, Countless More In The Future (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Report Drops MAJOR Bomb In Supreme Court Case : Hobby Lobby Invests In Abortion Pill Manufacturers (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Adding Fuel To The Fire In The War On Women: How The Hobby Lobby Case Could Help Democrats In 2014 Elections (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Five Things The Justices Missed During The Hobby Lobby Oral Arguments (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Hobby Lobby’s Secret Agenda: How It’s Quietly Funding A Massive Right-Wing Movement (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- 4 Ways Supreme Court Ruling On Idea Of Religious Freedom For Corporations Could Be Disastrous For Americans (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
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- How Ignorance Of Science Could Mean Bad News For Birth Control: Justice Kennedy Thinks Hobby Lobby Is An Abortion Case (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, And Kagan Come Out Swinging Against Hobby Lobby Corporate ‘Religious Freedom’ Claim (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Five Reasons Contraceptive Coverage Is Essential (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Hobby Lobby Inspired New York Lawmakers To Fight To Protect Birth Control In Their State (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- More Than Two-Thirds Of Female Voters Don’t Want Hobby Lobby To Win Its Supreme Court Case (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Birth Control Pills Are Keeping Me Alive (Literally): My Personal Perspective On Tomorrow’s Supreme Court Case (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Right-Wing Judges Face Huge Moral Dilemma: How Hobby Lobby Could Expose SCOTUS’ Hypocrisy (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Read This One Document To Understand What The Christian Right Hopes To Gain From Hobby Lobby (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Hobby Lobby Doesn’t Just Want To Avoid Covering Contraception – It Wants To Stop Doctors From Even Talking About It (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- When ‘Religious Liberty’ Was Used To Deny All Health Care To Women And Not Just Birth Control (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Why The Hobby Lobby Case Before The Supreme Court Matters So Much For Women (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Religion Is No Excuse For Bigotry Against Women (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Corporations Have No Right To Religious Freedom (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Poll: Majority Of Americans Support Affordable Care Act’s Contraception Mandate (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Republican Lawmaker: “Birth Control Is For People Who Don’t Necessarily Want To Act Responsibly” (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Use Of Contraception Is Not Your Boss’ Business (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Taking A Stand: Religious Leaders Speak Up In Support Of Obamacare’s Birth Control Coverage (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- What Women Already Know: Documenting The Social And Economic Benefits Of Contraception & Family Planning (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Contraceptive Coverage At The U.S. Supreme Court: Countering The Rhetoric With Evidence (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- If Hobby Lobby Wins, It Will Be Even Worse For Birth Control Access Than You Think (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Hobby Lobby Contraception Case: Court Briefs Reveal What The Religious Right Really Thinks About Birth Control (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Everything You Need To Know About The Affordable Care Act’s Contraception Mandate (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- New Court Documents Show That Hobby Lobby’s “Religious Liberty” Case Against Birth Control Is Really Just About Sex (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- 4 Basic Facts To Remember Before The Supreme Court Hears A Major Case About Birth Control (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- The Right-Wing Campaign Against Birth Control: Why Are Conservatives So Concerned About Women’s Sexual Behavior? (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Don’t Be Fooled: The Evangelical Campaign Against Birth Control Is About Politics – Not Religion (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- 5 Ways The Christian Right Is Twisting Religion To Push Conservative Dogma (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Religious Groups Take A Stand For Reproductive Rights: ‘It’s Time To Change The Conversation’ (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Crowdsourcing Bigotry: What Anti-Contraception And Anti-Gay Laws Have In Common (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- When Religious Beliefs About Birth Control Override Medical Necessity (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Employers’ Refusal To Comply With ACA’s Contraception Mandate: Making A Mockery Of Religious Freedom (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- A Message From The President Of The National Organization For Women: Denying Access To Contraception Is “Unconscionable” (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Trouble On The Right: How Republican Opposition To Obamacare’s Birth Control Coverage Turned Into Republican Support For Unprecedented Anti-Gay Legislation (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- When Does Religious Freedom Mean Freedom To Discriminate? (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Attention Media: There’s No “Unsettled Science” In The Contraception Challenges (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- A Renewed Conversation About Reproductive Rights: The Moral And Spiritual Virtues Of The Pro-Choice Movement (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- The Politics Of Women’s Rights: 6 Myths That Fuel The Anti-Choice Agenda (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- The GOP’s Other War On Women: 5 Gender Battlegrounds Beyond Abortion And Contraception (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Study Confirms Affordable Care Act’s Birth Control Mandate Will Reduce Abortion Rate (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Republicans Talk A Lot About Lowering The Abortion Rate, But They Don’t Actually Deliver (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- The Still Uncertain State Of Reproductive Health In America (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- The Affordable Care Act’s Birth Control Mandate Does Not Violate Nun’s Rights (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- The Reproductive Politics Of Poverty (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Three Reasons To Uphold The Contraception Mandate That Don’t Even Involve Birth Control (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Right-Wing Media Revive Myth That ACA Birth Control Mandate Covers Abortions (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Crowdsourcing Bigotry: What Anti-Contraception And Anti-Gay Laws Have In Common (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Here’s Whats Really At Stake In The Birth Control Case Involving The Colorado Nuns (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- The Strange Bedfellows Of The Anti-Contraception Alliance (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Thanks To Obamacare, The Number Of Women Who Aren’t Charged For Birth Control Has Jumped By 25% (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Affordable Care Act: Implications For Women’s Health (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
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- Catholic Groups Trying To Eliminate Coverage Of Contraception No Matter Who Pays (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
- Obama Administration Defends Affordable Care Act’s Birth Control Coverage In Supreme Court Response (publichealthwatch.wordpress.com)
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