Tell President Obama not to cave to the Catholic Bishops on birth control coverage

I’ve written ranted before about the US. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ campaign against no-cost birth control coverage. According to Jodi Jacobson, the Obama administration might actually give in to their demands. Last week, Archbishop Dolan meet privately with President Obama and came away feeling pretty darn good about it.

Jodi reminds us just how absurd this is:

What the Bishops really want is to strong-arm government into imposing restrictions on people’s choices and lives that they can’t even get Catholics to follow. They want to be able to receive federal funding, federal grants and contracts, get tax breaks and special treatment over other groups for building Catholic hospitals, maintain tax-exempt status while flouting lobbying rules, and play the victim card whenever they can’t avoid laws meant to advance health and human rights. And they are aided and abetted in their efforts by other far-right my-way-or-the-highway-on-religion organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, as well as a considerable number of GOP and Tea Party members of Congress. [...]

So it takes some imagination–and I have not mustered anywhere nearly enough–to understand why the Obama Administration would EVEN. THINK. TWICE. about caving to the Bishops. Obama needs women to come out for him in the 2012 election, he campaigned on and promised adherence to science and evidence in the creation of policy, and he promised that under health reform people would not lose benefits they already had, a promise he has already broken once–big time–when it came to women’s health coverage on abortion care.

Indeed. Obama should know that bowing to the Bishops’ pressure is not an option, but if he doesn’t, he needs to hear it. For the one hundred millionth time: birth control use is totally uncontroversial and almost universal. (In fact, a new report shows that American women and teens use the birth control pill for a range of other medical issues besides pregnancy prevention.) Plus, there is already an adequate refusal clause in place that exempts some religious employers from the providing the coverage–the Bishops just want to expand it even further.

If the administration doesn’t hold strong on this, nearly one million people who work at Catholic hospitals and approximately two million students and workers at religiously-affiliated universities would lose contraceptive coverage they already have. That’s a whole lot of hardworking nurses, secretaries, teachers, and students who would be denied coverage solely because of where they are employed. And for the millions of other Americans who aren’t directly affected? Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t stomach seeing a pro-choice president bend to the will of a bunch of conservative, extremist men on something as basic to women’s health as birth control coverage.

Sign NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood’s petitions to tell President Obama that all women need affordable birth control coverage. And follow NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s lead by tweeting at @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama using the hashtag #BCRefusal.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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