After almost three weeks of criticism from the GOP and religious groups, the White House today announced that it will no longer require religious institutions such as hospitals, universities and charities to provide free preventive care services, including contraceptives to the insured.
“The change essentially shifts the responsibility for providing and discussing contraception from the religious employer to the insurers,” writes the Los Angeles Times. “Any employer who has a religious objections to providing contraception will not have to provide that service to employees, but in those cases the insurer will be required to reach out directly to the employee and offer contraceptive care free of charge.”
The White House’s Jan. 20 announcement angered many Republicans, a few Democrats and some Catholic leaders who denounced this mandate as an attack on religious freedoms, given that Catholics do not agree with any form of contraceptives — hormonal birth control and even condoms.
House Speaker John Boehner said earlier this week, "If the president does not reverse the … attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must. This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand."
But this Sunday on Meet the Press, Rachel Maddow, MSNBC host of The Rachel Maddow Show, articulated that this move isn't about denying religious freedom, it's about following the law to ensure that women have better health care. “The idea that the Catholic church is being forced to do something that, as a church, it does not want to do is a misnomer ... The question here is ... when you want to become a health insurance provider, you must follow the rules of providing health insurance. And in this country, that means you have to cover contraception."
This notion of ensuring that all women in the workforce don't have to pay co-pays for birth control is very important, especially for Black women. Despite whoever is footing the bill — insurance companies or religious institutions — the good news is that Obama's mandate takes the financial burden off of us to plan our families the way we see fit.
Vanessa Cullins from Planned Parenthood broke down the need for affordable contraception in an August blog post that still rings true today.
For many African-American women, cost often determines whether we can choose and maintain the most appropriate method of birth control, especially during hard times. In a recent survey, 51 percent of African-American women ages 18 to 34 said they'd had trouble purchasing birth control and using it consistently due to the cost. That's one reason African-American women are three times more likely than white women to have an unintended pregnancy and, as a result, have higher rates of abortion. But we're not alone: a 2008 report from the Guttmacher Institute showed the vast majority of abortions in the U.S. were due to unintended pregnancies, regardless of race or economic status. Overall, nearly the half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended.
This change has been endorsed by the Catholic Health Association.
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