A decision by the Obama Administration may come down very soon that could expand the religious exemption to our recently hard-won victory of contraception without co-pays for new insurance plans. That would mean that Latinas who work for religiously-affiliated schools, universities and hospitals could be denied coverage for birth control.
There are many reasons the Administration should not expand the religious exemption for birth control coverage, which currently is narrow and applies to health insurance plans for places of worship (which women’s health groups also oppose.) One major reason is the simple fact that 98% of sexually-experienced women will have used birth control at some point in their lives, including Catholic women. The myth that all Latinas are Catholic and therefore all oppose birth control is false. Latinas, including Catholic Latinas, resoundingly support the women’s preventive coverage benefit. In fact, 89% of Latina voters aged 18-34 support the requirement that health insurance plans cover birth control at no cost.
We know that family planning is central to the wellness of women and their families. Eliminating expensive co-pays could also expand access to contraception for Latinas, who cite the high cost of birth control as a barrier to consistent use. Far more important than the decision are the real impacts this could have on women who already struggle to make ends meet. For example, in these tough economic times, more women are seeking to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancies. Still, unintended pregnancies are rising among poor women who do not have the resources to purchase contraception. In 2006, a poor woman in the U.S. was four times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy as an affluent woman, and this disparity is likely to have increased with the recent “Great Recession.”
Taking away this benefit from millions of Latinas and their families has no basis in the law, is bad health policy, and is contrary to overwhelming public opinion.
Instead of caving to aggressive lobbying, the Administration should seize this opportunity to address the issue at hand; women’s reproductive rights. With groundswell of support from women’s health organizations and overwhelmingly from the public, the Administration should hop aboard the reproductive health bandwagon to support a standard of care that will respect the dignity of all women.
Latinas and all women deserve access to birth control without co-pays because it prevents unintended pregnancies and keep our families healthy. We know that contraception is a critical component of both public health initiatives and women’s healthcare, and for millions of Latinas, birth control, by definition, is prevention.
Take action and urge the Obama Administration not to expand the religious exemption.
This post is part of the HERvotes blog carnival.