Back in August we were celebrating a win for women’s health – the recognition that contraception is prevention. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) required health insurers (for all new plans after August 1, 2012) to cover a number of women’s preventive health care services, including the full range of FDA-approved contraception, with no out-of-pocket costs, which is a huge step forward for fairness and improved health outcomes for women and their families. We blogged on that victory here.
There was one glitch with this rule when HHS approved it, the Secretary took comments regarding a religious employer exemption for the contraceptive coverage provision of the rule. The Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s health responded strongly to this proposal, stating that no woman should be denied health care coverage because of the religious views of her employer. We emphasized that there is strong medical and public health consensus that contraceptive services are a critical part of women’s preventative care and that denying this benefit to some women because of their employer would fail to make real the promise of the Affordable Care Act for all women.
Now this religious employer exemption is being held up in the White House. Catholic Bishops are using their influence to try to expand the religious employer exemption in the rule. This cannot happen.
Wisconsin women have seen recent strides towards providing comprehensive reproductive health care and access to contraception in our state. In 2010, we became one of only 28 states to require health insurance plans that cover prescription drugs to include contraception. The Wisconsin law does not include any religious employer refusal clause. The HHS rule is, in fact, more limited in that way than the current Wisconsin law. For that reason, it is critical that the Federal Government does not lead Wisconsin backwards. Our current Governor included a provision repealing contraceptive equity in the state budget, and though it was removed due to its non-fiscal nature, it could be brought up later this legislative session. We need a strong federal rule – saying that contraception is prevention for all women.
Call (202-559-1164) or email the White House today, to tell them that all women deserve access to affordable, comprehensive, preventative care.
This is the ACA provision most likely to impact women’s lives, and two thirds of Americans support it. Tell the President not to weaken this important rule because of the pressure of a few, because nearly all sexually active women, regardless of their religious beliefs, use contraception at some point in their lives.
 National Women’s Law Center Health Care Report Card, 2010, http://hrc.nwlc.org/policy-indicators/contraceptive-coverage