In August, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a ruling requiring all insurers to cover contraception without a co-pay starting next year. Good news for women, right? So it’s no surprise that those who have been pushing woman-unfriendly reproductive policy–namely the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops–are lobbying for exemptions. They want leeway not only to refuse to cover birth control for Catholic Church employees (which they are already free to do), but also to allow religiously-affiliated hospitals, charitable organizations, elementary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities to refuse to cover birth control at no cost in their students and employee insurance plans.
One of the things that really galls about this–aside of course from the absurdity of denying women the right to make their own reproductive decisions–is that birth control is not just a contraceptive: The drug is used to treat a variety of conditions, from acne to cramps to migraines. In fact, just this week the Guttmacher Institute released a new report showing that women take the pill for a number of reasons not related to sex:
The study—based on U.S government data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG)—revealed that after pregnancy prevention (86%), the most common reasons women use the pill include reducing cramps or menstrual pain (31%); menstrual regulation, which for some women may help prevent migraines and other painful “side effects” of menstruation (28%); treatment of acne (14%); and treatment of endometriosis (4%). Additionally, it found that some 762,000 women who have never had sex use the pill, and they do so almost exclusively (99%) for noncontraceptive reasons.
So not only does the Catholic Church want to control women’s sex lives and reproduction, but they also want to make sure we continue to suffer from treatable pain and discomfort. I suppose in the minds of Catholic leaders, we just wouldn’t be women without that serpent biting at our heels. Catholic women, however, don’t seem to agree: 77 percent of those surveyed support birth control with no copay.
Let’s not take this lying down: Please tell President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius not to give in to demands from the Conference of Catholic Bishops that would deny no-copay birth control coverage to millions of women.