At a luncheon hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice America yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius criticized the recent pushback from anti-abortion advocates against a recent decision requiring insurance plans to cover birth control without co-pays.
Sebelius has been a key player in the recent decision by the Obama administration to make it easier for women to afford birth control. The new requirement would be implemented through the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius asked that birth control be included in a list of preventative care services to be covered by insurance companies — thereby requiring that birth control be covered without co-payments. For many women, steep co-pays have deterred them from purchasing family planning services.
According to the Associated Press, “Sebelius said women have suffered discrimination by insurance companies that considered ‘Viagra an essential medication and birth control a lifestyle choice.’”
While women’s health advocates have championed the decision, members of the anti-abortion rights movement have asked the Obama administration to reverse the decision.
Catholic groups, in particular, have petitioned the administration. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote in a letter that “a distorted view of sexuality and a disdain for the role of religion … are exhibited by the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent decision on the ‘preventive services’ to be mandated in virtually all private health plans under the new health care law.”
Even though the federal health agency included a religious exemption in the decision, Catholic groups feel it is “too limited.” The Bishops also released a 35-page comment claiming that the decision violates the First Amendment’s religion clause, and they requested that the mandate be rescinded “in its entirety.”
Catholic colleges, Catholic hospitals, Catholic physicians and other Catholic groups have been the main source of opposition to the decision. They believe that certain birth control methods included in the decision are abortion.
However, Sebelius says her decision will reduce the number of abortions in the country.
According to the Associated Press:
Sebelius said the national health law increases access to birth control, which she calls the single biggest step to reducing the number of abortions.
“Forty percent of unplanned pregnancies end in those women seeking abortions,” Sebelius said, then grew sarcastic: “Wouldn’t you think that people who want to reduce the number of abortions would champion the cause of widely available, widely affordable contraceptive services? Not so much.”
Sebelius also told the 300-member audience that the administration would also fight measures from the GOP aimed at limiting health services for women.
Sebelius said, “[We] will be fighting with you every step along the way,” according to the AP.