Obama administration sidesteps religious institutions on no-cost birth control

Today, in response to the obstinate pressure by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Obama administration announced a new plan for no-cost birth control. Essentially, insurance companies will have to pick up the tab if the employer won’t. Via RH Reality Check:

Despite deep concerns, including my own, based on what transpired in the past under health reform, the White House has decided on a plan to address the birth control mandate that will enable women to get contraceptive coverage directly through their insurance plans without having to buy a rider or a second plan, and without having to negotiate with or through religious entities or administrations that are hostile to primary reproductive health care, including but not limited to contraception.

Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide contraceptive coverage. Administration officials stated that a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”

So, if this rule works as intended, women will get birth control with no co-pays no matter where they work and religious institutions will still get that warm, fuzzy feeling of moral superiority because they’re not directly subsidizing their employees sinful lifestyles. I suppose that’s a win-win. But when a bunch of celibate men can throw a hissy fit and get out of providing a basic benefit that most Catholics want and most Catholic employers already cover on the bullshit basis of “religious freedom,” you know things are bad. And the next battle could end up worse.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/cmasontaylor/ C. Mason Taylor

    The Obama administration is still going to be getting tons of flack from conservatives and religionists on this score. Women still win, which is great, but the President loses, and a bunch of religious bigots win to boot.

    • rose0red

      I actually disagree, provided the administration is effective in their message. If conservatives and the Catholic church are still shrieking about their religious rights being violated when these organizations don’t have to provide even one penny towards contraception, I think most people will see how unreasonable that position is. That can be a plus for Obama, again, if he doesn’t screw up the messaging.

      I believe contraception access is important to independent voters, both female AND male. After all, even men who are married and religious like to have sex without risk of pregnancy. Obama has effectively removed religion from the equation and any whining from here on out is going to look like nothing more than the vilification of birth control. In this economy, anything that appears to do that is going to be taken very badly. Not to mention the implication that a bunch of bishops, pundits, and pols seem to be over-interested in the bedroom activities of all Americans is super, super creepy.

  • http://feministing.com/members/tashabunny/ natasha

    I’m going to cautiously be happy about this. If women will still be able to get their birth control through insurance, but all the people trying to stop it will now have no leverage to continue their anti-choice assault on women’s health, then that’s great.

  • http://feministing.com/members/robbieloveslife/ Robert

    I’m not one to defend the Catholic church but this should never have been an issue. I believe in separation of church and state. I don’t know why women interested in equality would want to work for them anyway knowing that church’s history.

    • mags425

      My mother is a registered nurse; when she graduated and looked for her first job, the only hospitals hiring were Catholic hospitals. Does that mean she doesn’t care about equality? No. Does that mean than she and her two daughters aren’t deserving of access to birth control? No. Especially in this economy, people don’t always have the luxury of handpicking their employer’s politics.

      • http://feministing.com/members/robbieloveslife/ Robert

        Good reply I didn’t think of that situation. I still think there should be separation of church and state. Women deserve access to birth control but let the employer offer it. Trust me the ones that voluntarily provide it will have way more women wanting to work for them which adds to the talent pool. Your mom or anyone has the option not to work for the church if they don’t want to. That’s like a man graduating from college and complaining that the only job offered requires him to treat women equally. Well that man has the option of not working at all if his employer’s political beliefs bother him. No one is holding a gun to someone’s head forcing them to work in this country.

        By the way, of all religious institutions Obama is targeting the Catholic church which has tons of latino voters? I mean is he trying to lose the election? Also, many catholics that oppose mormonism will switch sides if Romney promises to leave them alone.

  • http://feministing.com/members/andejoh/ John

    I know I’ll be asking my insurance provider how I can get my free condoms, without any copays. Birth control shouldn’t be just a women’s issue and the pill doesn’t prevent STDs.

    • http://feministing.com/members/tashabunny/ natasha

      I guess that could work if condoms were prescriptions, but they’re not. However, they do keep telling us about that male birth control pill that’s always just around the corner.