You may have already seen this photo before. For those in need of a quick recap, this is a picture of the House’s panel invited to speak about conflicts between religious ideology and contraceptive coverage. No, your screen isn’t blurry. Five panelists. Zero uteruses. For some reason that I still don’t really get, House Republicans think that they can make decisions regarding women’s health without women or healthcare professionals. Washington, we have a problem.
Since it can be difficult even for us to keep up with the sudden bustle of Congressional activity, we’ve broken down the top three benchmarks in the women’s health debate, as well as a few ways that you can get involved to stand up for your rights and health.
March 23, 2010: Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law
The Affordable Care Act seeks to rectify some of the more ethically questionable practices within the health insurance industry. It basically eliminates all of the ways that health insurance providers weasel out of paying for medical services, leaving us wondering why the heck we bought insurance in the first place.
The act also revamped and specified what measures constitute “preventative care” regarding women’s health. The government is finally catching on to the fact that contraception is important and is requiring employee health plans to cover it. Of course, religious institutions and social conservatives pressured the Obama administration to allow religious schools, hospitals, and charities to opt out of covering contraceptives.
Check out The Sex Files #16 for more information about women’s health in the Affordable Care Act!
February 10, 2012: Obama announces a compromise
Under more pressure than the Harvard valedictorian during finals week, Obama sought a compromise that could reconcile religious concerns with women’s health needs. In February, the President announced that contraceptive coverage should be offered to women directly from insurance companies, without direct involvement from religious institutions. In plain English, Boston College, for example, would not be forced by the federal government to provide birth control. Instead, Blue Cross Blue Shield (through which BC offers their insurance) would have to cover the cost of contraception without BC’s money. The Catholic Health Association accepted this compromise because, well, it makes sense. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops still opposes the compromise, claiming that it still violates the conscience of Catholics in the insurance industry. All feigned shock aside, supporters of near-universal coverage think that this stance is a bit of a stretch.
Which brings us to our biggest problem…
March 1, 2012: Senate votes down Blunt Amendment
In a last-ditch attempt to find any possible excuse to escape covering women’s health care, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) proposed an amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which has come to be called the “Blunt Amendment.” Not only would this amendment allow religious employers to deny contraception to their female employees on religious grounds, it would allow any employer to deny any health service to any employee on any “moral conviction.”
The Blunt Amendment would have essentially undone all of the progress made by the Affordable Care Act, creating loopholes wide enough to fit a Mack Truck. Under this dangerous piece of legislation, an employer could technically:
– Refuse maternity care to an interracial or homosexual couple if they have moral objections to such a
– Refuse Type 2 diabetes screening to overweight employees because of a perceived “unhealthy” lifestyle.
– Refuse maternity care to single mothers on religious grounds.
Luckily, common sense won out, and lawmakers killed this amendment with a vote of 51-48 on March 1st.. Unfortunately, the Blunt Amendment represents only one of several recent attacks on women’s health. We must all remain vigilant, and continue to speak out against any more threats that may come.
BCSSH – along with all the women who don’t want their bodies controlled by five middle-aged men in a biased congressional hearing – strongly oppose legislative restrictions on contraception. To get involved and stand up for your rights, check out Planned Parenthood’s Petition.
Peace, love, and lube,
BC Students for Sexual Health