contraception

The Supreme Court’s Attack on Working Women

The following is a guest blog by Beth Huang, 2010 Fellow of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young People For program.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in two critical cases with major implications for working women. The Supreme Court ruled once again that corporations are people, this time conferring religious rights that trump workers’ rights to access full healthcare. In a dissent to the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg noted “that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” Justice Ginsberg’s dissent reveals the real impacts of denying coverage of contraception for low-wage working women -- something the slim five-justice, all-male majority fails to comprehend.

To compound the attack on working women, five male Justices severely undermined the ability of care workers – 95 percent of whom are women – to collectively bargain in the case Harris v. Quinn. This assault on working people stems from the Justices’ view that the care workers in the case are not “real” public employees and thus the union cannot charge the appropriate agency fee to all of them for its bargaining services. This ruling serves the interests of anti-worker extremists at the expense of these invaluable workers who care for our families and our children.

It’s clear: a majority of Justices are trampling over the rights of working women. In light of these attacks, it’s time to organize for gender equity and economic justice for working women.

Back in 2010 when I was a student, Young People For helped me develop organizing skills that have led me to effectively advocate for and with women and workers. Through my work in student labor organizing as an undergraduate and since graduation, I have seen that workers’ rights are women’s rights, from having access to comprehensive healthcare to having a voice on the job. To build an economy that works for today’s students and youth, we need to organize locally and train new leaders in the broad effort to advance our agenda for gender equity and economic justice.

At the Student Labor Action Project a joint project of Jobs with Justice and the United States Student Association, we’re doing just that by building student power to advance an agenda that protects the rights of current workers and promotes a more just economy for students to enter when they graduate. Our campaigns focus on demanding funding for public higher education, which we know is a major source of good jobs and upward mobility for women and people of color; pushing back on Wall Street profits that fuel the student debt crisis; and raising the working conditions for Walmart workers, 57 percent of whom are women.

The Supreme Court’s decisions last week underscored the urgency of organizing for these changes. Women’s access to equal rights, power in the workplace, and comprehensive healthcare depends on it.

PFAW Foundation

Hobby Lobby Opens Up a Minefield

The Hobby Lobby ruling opens the door to handing even more power to large corporations, including the power to ignore anti-discrimination laws.
PFAW Foundation

Women Justices Press Important Questions During Hobby Lobby Arguments

Crowds of activists and advocacy groups gathered outside while the Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Inc. case.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not shy away from asking difficult questions that demonstrate the broad implications this case could have. Justices Sotomayor and Kagan voiced concerns regarding the implications of a ruling for the first time in our nation’s history that for-profit corporations have religious rights. Both justices questioned whether this decision would allow companies to deny access to coverage of not only contraceptive methods, but also of other lifesaving procedures employers might object to on religious grounds—like blood transfusions or vaccines.

The Huffington Post quotes Justice Kagan as saying, “There are quite a number of medical treatments that could be religiously objected to… Everything would be piecemeal, nothing would be uniform.”

Pushing the issue further, Justice Sotomayor asked, “How are courts supposed to know whether a corporation holds a particular religious belief?”

Similarly, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

was a law that was passed overwhelmingly [by] both houses of Congress. People from all sides of the political spectrum voted for it. It seems strange that there would have been that tremendous uniformity if it means [corporations are covered].

She added…

[T]here was an effort to adopt a … specific conscience amendment in 2012, and the Senate rejected that… That amendment would have enabled secular employers and insurance providers to deny coverage on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions. It was specifically geared to secular employers and insurance providers. And that…was rejected.

Justice Kagan noted that RFRA was considered non-controversial when it passed, an unlikely reaction if it had been understood to open the door to employers citing religious objections to complying with laws relating to sex discrimination, minimum wage, family leave, or child labor.

Justice Kagan also noted that women are “quite tangibly harmed” when employers don’t provide contraceptive coverage. This decision, however, could have far-reaching implications beyond women’s reproductive rights since this case deals with some of the same core issues seen in “right to discriminate” bills like Arizona’s, as we pointed out yesterday morning.

PFAW Foundation

‘Right to Discriminate’ Bills, Meet Hobby Lobby

Last month, as Arizona governor Jan Brewer deliberated whether to sign or veto a law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers, the public outcry was immense. Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain shared their opposition via Twitter. Companies including American Airlines, Apple, and AT&T urged a veto. Multiple state senators who had voted for SB 1062 asked Gov. Brewer to veto it. When she did, advocacy groups praised the decision and many in Arizona and across the country breathed a well-deserved sigh of relief.

But it turns out that sigh may have been premature.

This morning the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a case that, on its face, appears to be dealing with a different issue – women’s access to contraception – but in fact grapples with some of the same core issues in play with “right to discriminate” bills like Arizona’s. In the Hobby Lobby case, as in its companion case Conestoga Wood Specialities v. Sebelius, corporations are trying to avoid complying with the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act. But both the Supreme Court cases and the “right to discriminate” bills address the question of whether for-profit corporations have religious rights and can use those “rights” in a way that brings harm to others. 

Comparing the vetoed Arizona bill to efforts to let companies deny covering contraception, National Women’s Law Center vice president Emily Martin put it like this: “What you’re seeing in both cases are corporations asserting the right to break the law in the name of religion, even if it results in harm and discrimination for third parties.” And The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin noted,

Indeed, a victory for Hobby Lobby might bring in an Arizona-style rule through the back door….The Arizona law and the Hobby Lobby case represent two sides of the same coin. Both assert that the invocation of a religious belief allows a company to opt out of a government requirement that applies to everyone else.

But corporations have never had religious rights, and as affiliate PFAW Foundation senior fellow Jamie Raskin wrote in a recent report, that concept is simply “absurd.”

[I]t is time for the Court to restore some reality to the conversation.  Business corporations do not belong to religions and they do not worship God.  We do not protect anyone’s religious free exercise rights by denying millions of women workers access to contraception.

PFAW

New DC Circuit Decision Shows Why GOP Wants to Block New Judges

With starkly political language, the DC Circuit rules that the ACA's contraception coverage provision violates business owners' religious liberty.
PFAW

Swanson & Buehner: New Gonorrhea Strain Sent By God to Punish America; Single Women Have No Rights

As we know, pastors Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner of Generations Radio are no fans of birth control. In fact, Swanson believes that “little tiny fetuses, little babies” are “embedded” into “those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill.”

Reacting to the news that the FDA has decided to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription to women ages 15 and older, Buehner called the move an attempt “to destroy the patriarchal structure of the family” as part of its “war against God’s family structure.”

According to Buehner, the Bible makes it clear that an unmarried woman “doesn’t have the feminist independence that we hear so much about to make contracts, to buy drugs, to engage in activities without the father’s consent,” as naturally the father should know “what drugs his daughter’s putting into her body” and “whether or not his daughter is out there fornicating with the football team.”

When the government does something like this, their intentions, their self-conscious intention, is to destroy the patriarchal structure of the family. The Book of Numbers is very clear and the Book of Numbers says that ‘when the father hears the vow of his daughter, an obligation to which she’s bound herself, if the father says nothing then the vow stands; but if the father should forbid her on the day he hears of it then none of her vows, none of her obligations of which she has bound herself, shall stand.’ What that means is that a father who has a daughter, she’s not free, she doesn’t have the feminist independence that we hear so much about to make contracts, to buy drugs, to engage in activities without the father’s consent. Now when you tell the father he has no business knowing what drugs his daughter’s putting into her body, when a father has no business knowing whether or not his daughter is out there fornicating with the football team, you’ve destroyed patriarchy even more. I think the government is waging a war against God’s family structure.

Swanson took it one step further by alleging that a new strain of gonorrhea is divine punishment for sexual immorality.

“God is in control and he can send a superbug to wipe out a lot of people who are engaged in this kind of sexuality and if that be the case then I guess we don’t need a political magistrate to do that work for us,” Swanson said.

He knows what’s going on and he will exercise perfect justice and nobody, nobody, nobody is going to get away with this kind of thing. Dave, you mentioned the rise in STDs, sexually transmitted diseases are going to rise I think significantly for 15, 16, 17 year old girls and here’s an article that just came out yesterday: ‘Sex Superbug Could Be Worse Than AIDS.’ It’s an antibiotic resistant strain of gonorrhea and it could knock of these kids in three days. It’s apparently a very virulent disease, it’s a super bug; they consider it a super bug. ‘Some analysts say that the bacteria’s affects could match those of AIDS. This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly…. Even though nearly 30 million people have died from AIDS-related causes, Dr. Christianson believes the effect of the gonorrhea bacteria is more direct. Getting gonorrhea from this strain might put someone in septic shock and death in a matter of days. This is very dangerous.’ Apparently it has hit Hawaii, California and Norway thus far.

This idea that somehow that we are safe and technology can take care of us and we can take a pill for this and a pill for that and everything is going to be hunky-dory and you can get away with whatever kind of sexual activity you want to get away with, there is a God in the heavens, there is a God in the heavens. I know that the average American doesn’t believe that anymore. They don’t fear God, the beginning of wisdom is not the fear of God in these schools, they don’t teach the beginning of knowledge and wisdom is the fear of God in sex-education classrooms. They say, ‘well you know you might get an STD,’ but then the really smart guy says, ‘well that’s alright these government agencies can figure out a way to solve these problems and so I don’t have to worry about any of this.’ Friends, ultimately God is in control and he can send a superbug to wipe out a lot of people who are engaged in this kind of sexuality and if that be the case then I guess we don’t need a political magistrate to do that work for us.

Buehner predicted that within a decade elementary and middle schools will be putting the morning-after pill in vending machines as more and more women have trouble coping with the ramifications of putting “the bullet into the baby’s head.”

Swanson: A lot of these liberals are more than happy to provide abortion and it doesn’t really matter how these girls got to be pregnant, the point being that these little girls can be messed up sexually in so many different ways but society wants to be sure that the child is done away with in the process.

Buehner: Yeah, obviously the goal here is to kill, to keep children from being born, that’s what the pill does, that’s what its point is, to keep children from being born. Now one of the things about the day-after pill is a girl doesn’t know if she’s pregnant, she doesn’t know if conception happened so gets it, she’s like the one in the firing squad, there’s usually one person in the old firing squad who had a blank, she gets the comfort of knowing perhaps that she had the blank and she didn’t actually put the bullet into the baby’s head.

So there is the killing aspect of this but you’re right if the winds of society don’t change the direction they’re blowing not only do I see that this FDA ruling will stand, I believe it will go all the way to the judges’ utopian idea that girls, if they can ask for it they can get it. In fact, I believe you will probably see within a decade that this will be available in vending machines in elementary and junior highs in the near future, within about ten years or so, you just go to the vending machine, put in your fifty cents, get your day-after pill and go on about your life. The social consequences are catastrophic.

Right Wing Leftovers - 2/22/13

  • Even though studies keep proving that morning-after pills don’t cause abortion, Religious Right groups will continue to baselessly argue otherwise. 
  • Family Research Council invites you to the National Organization for Marriage’s anti-gay Marriage March.
  • Yet another tough break for professional vote-suppressor Hans von Spakovsky. 
  • Rick Warren is very, very, very sad that Tim Tebow pulled out of his appearance at Robert Jeffress’ megachurch. 

'Religious Liberty' Panelist: Compromise is of the Devil

The Family Research Council hosted a panel discussion Wednesday on religious liberty in America.  If you have paid any attention at all to the frantic warnings from FRC’s Tony Perkins that tyranny is on the march, you could have guessed what was coming.  The overall theme of the conversation was that the HHS mandate for insurance coverage of contraception is a dire threat to religious freedom in America.  So are the advance of marriage equality and laws against anti-gay discrimination – or the “sexual liberty agenda.”

The panel featured three lawyers: Adele Keim of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Kellie Fiedorek of the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund) and Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council.

Keim talked about Becket’s client Hobby Lobby, which is suing the Obama administration over the contraception mandate.  Or as Keim insisted on calling it, the contraception/abortifacient mandate. Keim argued that business owners are no less deserving of religious accommodation than churches or religiously affiliated nonprofits, saying “Americans do not lose their First Amendment rights when they go to work.” Of course by the standard she was invoking, many Americans could find their own rights and access to health care dictated by the religious beliefs of their employer.

The ADF’s Fiedorek focused on the “great peril” to religious liberty posed by the “agenda to expand sexual liberty and redefine marriage.”   She said in the conflict between sexual liberty and religious liberty, "people of faith" are "the ones being marginalized." She recounted a litany of such “persecution,” including now-familiar stories of a New Mexico photographer and a Colorado baker who were penalized under state anti-discrimination laws when they declined to serve same-sex couples celebrating commitment ceremonies.  Fiedorek compared cases in which businesses are required not to discriminate against gay couples to requiring an African American photographer to take pictures at a KKK event or a Jewish baker to create a cake decorated with a swastika.  She called it “particularly atrocious” that Catholic social service agencies were being required to abide by anti-discrimination ordinances – and were being “forced” to close.  She began and closed her presentation with quotes from the movie Chariots of Fire, ending with one that includes, “Don’t compromise. Compromise is a language of the devil.”

Klukowski talked about the role of religious freedom in the settling of America and the founding of the U.S.  And he recycled ridiculous religious right charges that the Obama administration believes not in freedom of religion but in the narrower “freedom of worship,” a notion that he said would be “profoundly disturbing” to the founding fathers.

The most interesting question from the audience focused on implications of the Bob Jones University case, and on whether the racialist Christian Identity movement could make the same religious liberty claims the lawyers were defending.  Why, the questioner asked, couldn’t the “conscience” rights the lawyers wanted for business owners not be claimed by a Christian Identity-affiliated business owner to deny doing business with African American people or interracial couples?

After a moment of awkward silence, Klukowski said that in the Bob Jones case, the Supreme Court had said the university could continue its racially discriminatory policies, but that its tax exemption was a benefit conferred by the government and could therefore be removed, especially in light of the post-civil war constitutional amendments addressing racial discrimination.  Klukowski did not directly address whether and how that principle could, would, or should apply to the current conversation about anti-gay discrimination.  He gave a confusing statement about what he said was the right of a business owner to throw someone out of their store for wearing a certain T-shirt or carrying a Bible.  The First Amendment, he says, allows people to be jerks in their private lives, but it was not clear whether he meant that the relationship between a business and its customers was “purely private” or falls into the category of public accommodation.

The Challenge of “Both-And” Policymaking

People For the American Way Foundation’s Twelve Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics is grounded in our commitment to religious liberty and church-state separation, and in the recognition that fundamental constitutional values sometimes come into creative tension.  Where to draw the lines in any particular situation can be a challenge, and even people who generally agree on constitutional principles may disagree about how they should apply on a given policy question. Nothing demonstrates this complexity more than the Obama administration’s efforts to ensure that American women have access to contraception and reproductive health services while addressing objections that such requirements would violate the conscience of some religious employers.

Religious Right groups and their allies at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have for months been portraying the Obama administration’s proposed rules requiring insurance coverage of contraception as totalitarian threats to religious liberty, even after the administration adjusted its initial proposal to address those concerns.  Some Religious Right leaders are sticking with their ludicrous “tyranny” message even after the Obama administration today released a further revision that broadens the number of religious groups that will be exempt from new requirements while still guaranteeing women access to contraception.

In describing the policy proposal, HHS Deputy Director of Policy and Regulation Chiquita Brooks-LaSure told reporters, “No nonprofit religious institution will be forced to pay for or provide contraceptive coverage, and churches and houses of worship are specifically exempt.” Under the plan, women who work for such organizations would have access to no-cost contraception coverage through other channels.

Here’s where it gets interesting: The new proposal won praise both from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Americaand from right-wing ideologue Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who called it “a sign of goodwill by the Obama administration toward the Catholic community.”

In contrast, the proposal was slammed by the far-right Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America – and by Catholics for Choice, which said, “While protecting contraceptive access under the ACA is a win for women, the administration’s caving in to lobbying from conservative religious pressure groups is a loss for everyone.” Catholics for Choice warned that a broadened exemption for religious groups “gives religious extremists carte blanche to trump the rights of others” and that women working at Catholic organizations “are wondering whether they’ll be able to get the same coverage as millions of other women, or if their healthcare just isn’t as important to the president as their bosses’ beliefs about sex and reproduction.”

James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, portrayed the approach as a win-win. “As Catholics United said from the very beginning, reasonable people knew it was right to be patient and hopeful that all sides could come together to solve this complex issue. The White House deserves praise in alleviating the Church’s concerns.”

Leading advocates for women’s heath praised the new approach.  Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood said the group would be taking a look at the details, but said “This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control.” A statement from NARAL Pro-Choice America said the group“is optimistic that these new draft regulations will make near-universal contraceptive coverage a reality.”

Meanwhile, anti-choice advocates that have been pushing for rules that would exempt even individual business owners who have objections to providing contraceptive coverage for their employees complained that the new exemption would not extend to private businesses.

Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance said the new rules show Obama’s “intent to trample the religious liberties of Americans” and said, “When religious groups and individual Americans are forced to deny their deeply held religious convictions, it is not called “balance,” it’s called “tyranny.” The Family Research Council repeated Religious Right characterizations of the previous accommodation as an “accounting gimmick.”

People For the American Way believes that the government has a compelling interest in ensuring that women have access to family planning services. Indeed, Dr. Linda Rosentock, dean of the UCLA's school of public health and a member of the Institute of Medicine committee that was part of the review process on the HHS regulations, testified last year that the Centers for Disease Control has ranked family planning as one of the major public health achievements of the 20th Century.

People For the American Way is also deeply concerned about the efforts by  Religious Right groups and its conservative Catholic allies to re-define “religious liberty” in unprecedented ways that would allow groups to take taxpayer dollars without abiding by reasonable regulations such as anti-discrimination requirements – and to allow private employers and others to claim exemption from all kinds of laws based on “religious” or “moral grounds.”

In this case, we believe the Obama administration has acted in good faith to promote the nation’s public health interests while addressing concerns that those policies might burden religious liberty.  Our courts have long recognized that religious liberty, like the freedom of speech, is not absolute, and that policymakers must often balance competing interests. That is what the administration has done.

PFAW

Swanson: Wombs of Women on Birth Control 'Embedded' with 'Dead Babies'

Well, here’s some medical research we hadn’t heard about. Generations Radio host Kevin Swanson, who last week delved memorably into feminist theory, tells us this week that “certain doctors and certain scientists” have researched the wombs of women on the pill and found “there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb…Those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”

Swanson must be speaking with the same doctors as former Rep. Todd Akin. Even Kevin Peeples, whom Swanson is interviewing about his anti-contraception documentary Birth Control: How Did We Get Here?, isn’t quite sold on the evidence.

Swanson: I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.

Peeples: We’ve actually heard on both sides of that. We’re researching that and want to make sure we speak correctly to that in our second film. But we have medical advice on both sides of the table there, so we want to make sure that we communicate that properly.

Swanson: It would seem, and I realize that people are a little split on what are all the effects of the birth control pill, but it would seem that there’s a tremendous risk in the use of it for the life of children.

Earlier in the interview, Peeples and Swanson discuss how birth control came to be widely used and accepted by many churches. Women, Peeples laments, “desire the men’s role” and are now missing out on “the role God put them in that he laid out in Genesis.” Before World War II, Peeples claims, “abortion, sterilization, eugenics and birth control were all tied together” until “Hitler took the fall for taking it very aggressively and dramatically.”

Peeples: It starts with men and women fighting and not being happy with the role that God put them in that he laid out in Genesis. So whenever you seek to desire, when women seek to desire the men’s role, they lose the part and the idea of what children does, not just for the kingdom and not just does with their family, but does for their gender role.

Swanson: Are you saying that the population control stuff, egalitarian feminism, birth control, abortion, they’re all sort of interrelated?

Peeples: Yeah, it wasn’t until after World War II that they begin to separate them. Abortion, sterilization, eugenics and birth control were all tied together, they were all kind of a package for eugenics and population control. Hitler took the fall for taking it very aggressively and dramatically, and so they said, ‘Hey, let’s kind of take this back, let’s get rid of the negative things and let’s play on Christian liberty, let’s play on freedom, let’s play on people kind of taking this upon themselves to control population rather than forcing it on them. So, again, it’s just another effect of not researching our history to know what happened in the world alongside of the Church.

Concerns that Citizens United May Impact Your Access to Birth Control

What does Citizens United have to do with women’s health care?  According to a decision last week from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, perhaps more than you may think.

Just a week after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Hobby Lobby’s petition to prevent enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage provision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling at odds with that decision.  Last Friday the panel granted a motion for an injunction pending appeal to plaintiffs Cyril and Jane Korte who run Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, a construction company.  The Kortes had argued that the contraception mandate of the ACA violated their right to religious freedom. 

In other words, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided that – at least temporarily – the company does not have to comply with the Obama Administration’s rules that most employer-provided health care plans must cover birth control.

ThinkProgress’s Ian Millhiser points out that the Appeals Court cited Citizens United in their reasoning, a move that he finds “ominous.” Millhiser highlights a line from the decision – “That the Kortes operate their business in the corporate form is not dispositive of their claim. See generally Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010)” – before arguing that:

As a matter of current law, this decision is wrong. As the Supreme Court explained in United States v. Lee, “[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.” Lee established — with no justice in dissent — that religious liberty does not allow an employer to “impose the employer’s religious faith on the employees,” such as by forcing employees to give up their own rights because of the employer’s objections to birth control.

Nevertheless, the Seventh Circuit’s citation to Citizens United is an ominous sign. Lee was decided at a time when the Court understood that corporations should not be allowed to buy and sell elections. That time has passed, and the precedents protecting against corporate election-buying were overruled in Citizens United. It is not difficult to imagine the same five justices who tossed out longstanding precedent in Citizens United doing the same in a case involving whether employers can impose their religious beliefs on their employees.


Circuit Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner also raised issues with the decision.  In her dissent, she addressed the corporation issue head-on.  She noted that:


...it is the corporation rather than the Kortes individually which will pay for the insurance coverage. The corporate form may not be dispositive of the claims raised in this litigation, but neither is it meaningless: it does separate the Kortes, in some real measure, from the actions of their company.


Similarly, our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Paul Gordon noted last month in reference to the Hobby Lobby decision that the question of where to draw the line in terms of government regulation of religious institutions and individuals is a tricky one.  Still, he pointed out:


The requirement to provide certain health insurance for your employees – not for yourself, but for people you hire in a business you place in the public stream of commerce – seems a reasonable one.

 

PFAW

Circuit Court Rejects Attack on Contraception Coverage

The 10th Circuit rejects the argument that an employer's religious liberty is substantially burdened by the contraception coverage requirement.
PFAW Foundation

'Religious Freedom' Rallies Barely Conceal Anti-Obama Activism

Opponents of contraception access this weekend held “religious freedom” demonstrations across the country to protest the Obama administration’s new rules ensuring contraception coverage in health insurance plans. In one of the rallies last month in Washington D.C. in front of the White House, speakers including Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition and Lila Rose of Live Action denounced the Obama administration for their purportedly “tyrannical” insurance mandate.

The keynote speakers at the White House rally was none other than Father Marcel Guarnizo, whose claim to fame is denying a lesbian parishioner communion at her mother’s funeral and refused to attend the burial ceremony. Fr. Guarnizo said that pro-choice and pro-gay equality politicians are “unfit to rule” and are “not worthy of a democratic vote.” He went on to maintain that American democracy is on the brink of collapse and told attendees to “vote this man out of office in November.”

He also had harsh words for Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who championed his state’s marriage equality law, claiming that they are more than unfaithful Catholic “lost sheep” but “wolves who are plotting and working specifically against the common good and the Church.” “Those people need to be castigated publicly by the shepherds of the church,” Guarnizo said.

Also appearing was American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer, who warned that legal abortion and gay rights is provoking God’s “judgment and wrath” on America. 

Leading Anti-Choice Activist says Romney 'Did The Same Thing' as Obama on Contraception

Personhood USA president Keith Mason spoke to Janet Mefferd on Monday to cast doubt on Romney’s record on reproductive rights and stem-cell research, addressing Romney’s consistency, or lack thereof, on abortion rights and stem-cell research, role in health care reform in Massachusetts, and views on mandating hospitals to distribute emergency contraceptive pills. “At the end of the day, I don’t believe he is pro-life,” Mason said, arguing that Romney’s move on contraception coverage was no different from the Obama administration’s stance:

Mefferd: When you look at his record back in Massachusetts, he talks about a pro-life conversion but it is very confusing I think for a lot of pro-lifers to look at what he did in Massachusetts and feel totally comfortable with where he actually stands versus what he says. Where do you come down on his pro-life record in Massachusetts and where he stands now?

Mason: At the end of the day, I don’t believe he is pro-life. I guess I could be blunt; I could go through a list. We have RomneyCare as a starter, in Romney Care he used his veto powers in eight different ways but he didn’t use those veto powers to veto the $50 co-pay abortions that are within RomneyCare. Then after that even in 2004 we have a bill that he says he had a pro-life conversion so he vetoed a bill against embryonic stem-cell research and then he signed a bill later allowing for stem-cell research by embryos leftover from IVF clinics. That’s not that convincing to me either.

As far as the morning after pill goes, we have a bill that he vetoed, which is part of his pro-life conversion, he used it sort of for his credentials, for expanded access to the morning after pill. But then just three months later he signed a bill that even expanded it even farther than that, than it was being implemented at the time. Then even against his legal team’s advice he signed an executive order mandating that Catholic hospitals distribute the morning-after pill. With all these rallies, which I’ll participated on the 8th with religious freedom sort of to send the message to the Obama administration to not trample on that, the guy that we’re supposed to rally around sort of did the same thing.

As William Saletan points out in a Slate article documenting Romney’s constantly changing story about his “conversion” on the abortion issue, Romney claims to have stopped supporting abortion rights after he was troubled by a meeting regarding the ethics of embryo research, but after coming out against reproductive choice he continued to favor research on surplus IVF embryos. And despite Romney’s assertion that “every time as governor” he “came down on the side of life,” he said in a 2005 interview (after his supposed change of views) that he would veto any bill about abortion, “whether it’s pro-life or pro-choice.”

The Massachusetts-based Catholic Action League criticized Romney for enforcing his private counsel’s opinion mandating that Catholic hospitals distribute emergency contraceptive pills, claiming, “The injury to the conscience rights of Catholic hospitals was not done so much so much by the church’s ideological enemies on the Left but by the Romney administration.” Later, Romney said he personally supported his counsel’s view. During the presidential campaign, however, Romney described the Obama administration’s opposition to exempting health workers from distributing contraceptives as part of “an assault on religion unlike anything we have seen.”

 

The War on Women

How the War on Women Became Mainstream: Turning Back the Clock in Tea Party America

PFAW's Peter Montgomery: Republicans Using 'Religious Liberty' to Attack Obama, Women's Health

Attacking President Obama for his supposed “hostility” to religious liberty is the tactic du jour for congressional Republicans, according to a new piece in the Huffington Post by PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery.

After a widely-mocked hearing before the House Oversight Committee on contraceptive coverage, conservatives testifying before the Judiciary Committee continued to claim that the Obama Administration’s compromise on contraceptive coverage is not sufficient – and even if were, the Administration couldn’t be trusted to actually carry it out.

But many of their arguments relied on narrow definitions of the beginning of life that are at odds with medical standards and even with the rest of the religious community:

The arguments from Republican members and their witnesses boiled down to three main claims: the regulations requiring contraception coverage are unconstitutional burdens on religious organizations; the compromise to prevent religious organizations from having to pay for contraceptive coverage is only "an accounting gimmick" that does not resolve any of the moral or religious liberty issues; and the Obama administration has proven itself hostile to religious liberty and cannot be trusted to follow through on its promised accommodation.

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Several Democratic members pointedly noted that Lori was not speaking for all Catholic leaders, placing into the record positive statements about the proposed compromise from the Catholic Health Association, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and other Catholic groups. Meanwhile, outside the hearing, other Catholic voices challenged the credibility of the bishops' religious liberty alarmism.

Others cited fallacious examples to attempt to bolster their claim of lacking religious accomodation.

Also on hand: more nonsensical analogies to join Bishop Lori's previous testimony that the regulations were akin to forcing a Jewish deli to serve pork. Committee Chair Lamar Smith asked whether the government could force people to drink red wine for its health benefits. (As Rep. Zoe Lofgren noted, no one is being forced to use birth control.) Religious Right favorite Rep. Steve King lamented that in the past Christians had "submitted" to Supreme Court decision on prayer in schools and the Griswold decision and the right to privacy "manufactured" by the Supreme Court.

The piece goes on to discuss how religious liberty does require some accommodation of religious beliefs, and striking an appropriate balance is a delicate task. But whatever the outcome, Montgomery notes, the courts will evaluate the regulation of competing interests, and “religious liberty in America will survive.” You can read the entire article here.

PFAW

Senate Rejects Blunt Amendment, Romney Disappointed?

In a 51-48 vote today, the Senate rejected an amendment to the transportation bill by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt that would have allowed employers to deny their employees health insurance coverage for any treatment for any reason.

“The Blunt amendment was not only astoundingly bad public policy, it represented a fundamental misreading of the First Amendment. If it became law, it would have put working Americans – regardless of their religious beliefs – at the mercy of the religious beliefs of their employers. That’s not religious liberty – in fact, it’s exactly the opposite,” said PFAW president Michael Keegan in a statement released earlier today.

The extremity of this amendment wasn’t lost on every member of the GOP. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted against the amendment, and even major presidential contender Mitt Romney opposed the bill:

“I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”

But of course, after remembering that perpetuating the War on Women is one of the GOP’s primary tactics this year, he reversed course in record time:

“Of course I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception so I was simply — misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment.”

The American people, and in particular the 20 million American Women whose reproductive health coverage would have been jeopardized by the Blunt Amendment, are quickly losing patience for the type of brazen politicking that puts pandering to the extreme right-wing over the legitimate needs of the country.

PFAW

In a Victory For Women’s Health, Senate Rejects Extreme Blunt Amendment

In a 51-48 vote today, the Senate rejected an amendment to the transportation bill by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt that would have allowed employers to deny their employees health insurance coverage for any treatment for any reason.

Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way issued the following statement:

“The Blunt amendment was not only astoundingly bad public policy, it represented a fundamental misreading of the First Amendment. If it became law, it would have put working Americans – regardless of their religious beliefs – at the mercy of the religious beliefs of their employers. That’s not religious liberty – in fact, it’s exactly the opposite.

“Sen. Blunt’s plan would have caused chaos in our health care system by allowing each employer to decide which medications and procedures will be available to their employees. If this plan were to become law, no American who secures a job could be confident that that job would come with full health care benefits.

“The Blunt amendment was a desperate attempt by the GOP to appeal to a narrow and extreme base at the expense of the well-being of all Americans. Every senator who voted for this amendment can be assured that voters will notice and take note of their priorities.”

 

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