Birth Control and Politics: The Power of the Pill at the Polls

Merely Me Health Guide
  • Okay so we know that abortion is a divisive topic among politicians and voters. There is no surprise about that. But birth control? Really? Is it just me or is the recent political hullabaloo over health care and contraception a bit of a shock? Just when I think people are going to come to their senses and focus on job growth someone throws a monkey wrench into the mix to cause a political debate about birth control. At the center of the debate are presidential hopefuls in our next election and the Catholic Church. Sound crazy? Of course it does but this is American politics we are talking about. We have never quite figured out that separation of church and state concept in practice. In this post we are going to discuss what this political debate is all about and what it may mean for women who use birth control contraception.

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    The debate in a nutshell:


    President Obama’s 2010 healthcare plan included a provision that most health insurance plans would cover women’s contraception without charging a co-pay or deductible. This plan was to take effect starting August of 2012. But some politicians and religious leaders including those of the Catholic Church took issue with this plan stating that coverage of contraception goes against religious liberty. One staunch representative of the Catholic opposition is Bishop William Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. One of the stated goals of this committee is to take a stand against threats to religious liberty from federal and state government. Obama’s health care legislation including coverage of contraception by Catholic employers was deemed part of this threat.


    Catholic bishops weren’t the only critics of the proposed contraception coverage. Some of the Republican presidential hopefuls, especially Rick Santorum, had plenty to say as well about the matter.


    What did they say?


    Here are some quotes on this political issue from some of the major players in the debate:


    President Obama


    "I believe we must work together to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. I support legislation to expand access to contraception, health information, and preventative services to help reduce unintended pregnancies."


    "A woman's ability to decide how many children to have and when, without interference from the government, is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. It is not just an issue of choice, but equality and opportunity for all women."


    Rick Santorum (Republican presidential candidate)


    "I think it's harmful to our society to have a society that says that sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated, particularly among the young and it has I think we've seen very, very harmful long-term consequences to the society, Birth control to me enables that and I don't think it’s a healthy thing for our country."


    Time magazine cites Santorum as also stating that contraception is “not okay” and that if he were elected President that he would get rid of any idea that you have to have contraceptive coverage as a government policy.


    Foster Friess (One of Rick Santorum’s financial backers)


    It was a very uncomfortable interview with Andrea Mitchell from MSNBC when billionaire and financial supporter of Rick Santorum, Foster Friess, joked about the birth control debate: “This contraceptive thing. My gosh, it’s so inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”


    Timothy Dolan (Archbishop of New York and head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)


    During a recent interview with The Associated Press Dolan said he would support legislation that would allow “any employer to deny birth control coverage if it runs counter to their religious or moral beliefs.”

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    My personal observation: There sure are a lot of men in power who have opinions about women’s contraceptives. How will these “opinions” affect us?


    The Facts vs. Opinions:


    • According to a recent Guttmacher report on religion and contraceptive use the use of contraception is the norm among religious women.


    • The Guttmacher report found that among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This statistic is pretty much the same for Catholic women (98%).


    • Although most women have used contraception more than half of all women between the ages of 18-34 have difficulty affording it.


    • According to a recent CBS/New York Times public opinion poll  66% vs. 26% of Americans support President Obama’s proposal to require private health insurance plans to provide full coverage of birth control for women (no deductibles or co-pays). The majority of Americans still support this legislation even when the question was rephrased to include employers with a religious affiliation such as a hospital or university.


    Legislative Update (The bottom line for women who wish to have their birth control covered by insurance):


    In order to satisfy the needs of all constituents Obama delivered a compromise on February 10th of this year. Under the new policy institutions with a religious affiliation can seek an exemption from providing contraceptive coverage to women. Yet even if a woman’s employer does not cover contraception due to this exemption, the new legislation will require that the women’s insurance company pick up the tab instead.


    Despite this compromise, some people are still unhappy including Archbishop Timothy Dolan as well as some insurance providers.

    You can find the details of the amended legislation in the White House contraceptive regulation fact sheet.


    With months to go until election time, it is almost guaranteed that this debate will not go away anytime soon. We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


    Do you feel that President Obama’s change to contraceptive coverage is a fair compromise? Or do you feel that this legislation is a “threat to religious liberty”? Would you personally like to see women’s contraceptives fully covered by insurance? Let us know what you think. Your opinions are important to us.


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    For more information, be sure to check out:


    Types of Emergency Contraception


    What You Can Expect After Taking the Morning After Pill


    Emergency Contraception: How Much Do You Know About the Morning After Pill?


    The Morning After Pill


    Understanding the Risks of an IUD

Published On: February 20, 2012