Victory! Obama Stands Up to Bishops and Protects Birth Control Coverage

Great news! Despite months of fierce lobbying by the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Obama administration announced today that it would not exempt Catholic hospitals from the Affordable Care Act requirement for insurance plans to cover employees’ birth control. The news, which comes on the first day of Trust Women Week, is a welcome victory for feminists.

Back in November, feminists were concerned that President Obama might cave in to the Bishops’ pressure to exempt religious institutions. If the Bishops had their way, it would have meant that organizations that aren’t actual churches–such as colleges, universities and hospitals–would get out of covering birth control in insurance plans for their students and employees, despite an HHS ruling last August that birth control constitutes preventive care and should be covered with no copay. Feminists–including Feminist Majority President (and Ms. publisher) Eleanor Smeal–have loudly urged the administration not to let Catholic Bishops deny no-cost birth control coverage to millions. Here is Smeal’s response to today’s announcement:

At last—concern for women’s health trumps pressure from the Catholic Bishops. Millions of women who may have been denied access to birth control with no co-pays or deductibles will now have full access. I am especially pleased that college students at religiously affiliated institutions will now have coverage for birth control without co-pays or deductibles under their school health plans beginning in August 2012.

Birth control is the number one prescription drug for women ages 18 to 44 years. Right now, the average woman has to pay $50 per month for 30 years for birth control. No wonder many low-income women have had to forgo regular use of birth control and half of US pregnancies are unplanned. This decision will help millions of women and their families.

Some religious institutions will be given a one-year extension–from August 2012 to August 2013–to implement the no-fee coverage. Here are the details of the ruling:

  • Non-profit religious institutions that do not currently cover contraception have until August 2013 to do so with no co-pays or deductibles
  • However, religious institutions’ insurance plans that already cover birth control must do so with no co-pays or deductibles starting August 2012
  • All student insurance plans at religiously affiliated universities must cover contraception with no co-pays or deductibles beginning August 2012
  • Only women who work directly for a house of worship, such as for a church, synagogue, or mosque itself, are exempted from this required coverage
Photo of President Obama from Flickr user lednichenkoolga under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Nina van Vert says:

    There is no victory until we have universal healthcare like Canada, Europe and most of the developed world. It is ridiculous that is seems so much to ask for. It’s not its very simple. Anyone with eyes could see how much health care you pay for is hatred towards our poor, immigrants and people of color.

    • Judy Highfill says:

      I agree!

      • I hope soon- I cannot wait another half a century for change and healthcare benefits for all (inclusion of intersections)! This is going to happen and it is going to happen now- we’ve got to speak like we got it- it is our right, we claim it!

  2. The last thing this world needs or wants is unwanted children.

    Every child deserves to be born on purpose and loved on purpose.

    I can understand many people’s discomfiture with abortion as first-resort means of birth control, but there are many other forms of non-invasive birth control besides.

  3. janet culbertson says:

    Great !! keep religion out of politics and especially out of family planning!!! Are these bishops ready for 7 billion people? Janet

  4. Frieda A. Stahl says:

    It’s high time to remove the Council of Bishops from the legislative caucuses they’ve been invading. Our Constitution is supposed to protect our laws from religious control.

    • It is also supposed to protect religion from laws infringing on it. Healthcare is not a constitutionally granted right. Religion is.

  5. Patricia Hollinger says:

    Yay! Obama. Good to see a politician not pander to the Religious Right! Until any of them have a profoundly handicapped child as I do can they have an opinion about this women having the right to a LEGAL abortion.

  6. Therese LePage says:

    This is powerful and significant news. Can you set up a thank you e/mail for us to thank President Obama? (And thank you!)

  7. This is a truly sad day for the country when a sitting President denies a religion it’s right to practice it’s own beliefs in their institutions. Obama is not a man who brings people together but he steps on people’s religious convictions and spits on the U.S. Constitution. Is this something that women should be proud of?

    • Tony, from reading the other replies I’m afraid that you’re the only one who truly understands what just happened. This is only the beginning of the rights this president will take if he is allowed to continue. He obviously doesn’t care about the constitution. I agree, it is indeed a sad day for our country 🙁

      • Like I said Tony, they don’t understand. I could care less what others do in private but our govt. just forced a church to partake in something they don’t believe in. If you want contraception’s or an abortion, go for it but don’t ask for the church to help you get it. So much for separation of church and state.

        • Gee lady get a clue if you get raped under the values set by the church you are not human anymore just an incubator. No treatment for you if they say so, even if it would save your life. Good choice….catholic sheep

        • Tiffany M. says:

          You do realize that the church itself is not paying for anything, right? It’s an insurance company that covers it. If you read the constitution, you would understand that all people are guaranteed certain rights regardless of the religious ideals of their employers. Please do some real research before judging a situation. And no, watching the news or reading opinion pieces is not real research.

    • Paul Wall says:

      What goes on in my bedroom and any consequences thereof are of no concern to anyone but the immediate parties. If you don’t like any “god” being denied access to my private life, you have my permission to post details of your own. Get your Bible out of my privates!

    • Frieda A. Stahl says:

      The Constitution does NOT authorize religious control over American human rights. Religious authorities do NOT belong in our legislative procedures. YET! Obama is trying to save American women from religious misogyny.

    • With due respect Ms./ Mr. Patsy and Tony, I understand that you feel it’s a right taken from the church but do you realize how much the catholic church has spat on women and tried to control their reproductive systems including by not wanting them to have birth control?- does that make any sense? What woman would want a misogynist institution of such caliber to prevail? Mind you the Catholic church has taken into itself to come up with rules that God never intended- and I avidly study the bible- not only that but they proclaim the sabbath a sunday rather than a saturday thus infringing on other Christian religions- I’m sure Jesus would not want women to suffer as I quote from John 19: 26-27 “26 When Jesus (God incarnated) therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” What this means is that Jesus did not only love John the disciple but he loved his mother too- because he did not just say Woman behold your son and that’s it-NO- he said BEHOLD THY MOTHER- when has the catholic church ever cared so much about the rights of women? Jesus did and does- did he condemn Mary Magdalene- NO- he said go and sin no more-Mind you we have the spirit of God in virtue- the holy spirit dwells w/in us- and btw God gave human beings men and women and even people whom are born two sexes a will of their own to CHOOSE- the catholic church shows the wrong side of God- a wrathful God- or rather say SOME Catholic institutions not built on God but on their own -“power” by- removing the sabbath as saturday in the power vested in the Church- not God- when does God’s word ever change? when it’s convenient?- I assure you not! We are talking about separation of the Catholic church and state because it has shown not to love women as Jesus did!!!!!! So next time you go talking about a church ask yourselves this question- are you talking as a true follower of christ or as some1 who relies on the priest to give you the word of God- Read it for yourselves- religion was not meant to be an institution of despotism it was meant in the way those followers of Jesus understood Gods word- do you know that those “saints” are saints? or are you relying on instituions built and corrupted by man? Your salvation is on you not on what other people tell you- find out- figure it out- and yes women should be proud to be able to have some control over their reproductive systems- birth control is good- abortion is a choice- remember will? Otherwise can we truly say God is a just God? I know God is but it seems you may not. With all do respect.

      • Raysa, first I would like to thank you for being respectful. Politics and religion are often sensitive subjects and conversations regarding them can become quite messy. My point was this. It doesn’t matter if you’re pro choice, anti abortion, Catholic, Muslim, Wiccan or Athiest, if you believe the constitution is a good thing then the government ignoring it even in the slightest matter should be upsetting. If a church doctrine is against contraception the government should not be allowed to force the church to help others obtain it. If the government believes all women should have access to all forms of birth control including abortion then the government should offer the workers and students an insurance plan that includes those benefits, but should not ever force the church to have any role in it. It might seem like a small thing but once they’re allowed to interfere with this church’s rights then all religious freedoms are at risk.

      • Well said! And as another note, Pasty and Tony again with due respect, try reading the ruling again…

        ‘Non-profit religious institutions that do not currently cover contraception have until August 2013 to do so with no co-pays or deductibles

        However, religious institutions’ insurance plans that already cover birth control must do so with no co-pays or deductibles starting August 2012

        All student insurance plans at religiously affiliated universities must cover contraception with no co-pays or deductibles beginning August 2012

        Only women who work directly for a house of worship, such as for a church, synagogue, or mosque itself, are exempted from this required coverage’

        If you did not catch the last point here it is again: ‘Only women who work directly for a house of worship, such as for a church, synagogue, or mosque itself, are exempted from this required coverage’.

        So actually its really not stomping on the church it is just making sure only legitimate foundations are exempt. Many catholic universities I know of are open to many religions and people and the law can not restrict or deny them proper reproductive care. As someone like Raysa who has intensively studied the bible, I believe Gods free will and our power of choice is a strong one that can not just be taken away. So with all due respect please do not bash about the separation of church and state when clearly the appropriate steps are being made to insure LEGITIMATE institutions their right to practice their religion. I am sorry that you have grown so used to religion being in our laws, but I am so proud Obama is standing up for the founding reason of this country: separation of church(and all other religions) and state.

  8. Sometimes, Mr. President, you make me so very happy!!! Thank-you!!

  9. President Obama finally stood up for women. This time, I don’t want to ever express his personal opinion about abortion. If he wants to win for sure he needs to retire Biden and ask Hillary to share the ticket. Better yet, Hillary running again.

  10. Cont., — Because of the many scriptural supports of life, God given, it must be protected and encouraged as it is intended to progress. It is more telling that there is no scripture which permits the wasting of life via such practices as abortion and preventative measures. Free will is afforded by God to us so that we may examine issues and then choose our path according to faith. We have the ability to accept or reject God upon our investigation of his character. Not al do choose him or his ways. If you do not choose him and wish to fornicated then the consequences are irresposible creation of life outside of his will. That is your choice. You do that which will create a life and then say it is not right to have life be a part of this act. Well it is. Intercourse creates alife by factor of its design. Because you do not wish to cherish sex as more than selfish gratification you want your wanton fill of it with no natural fullfillmen t of its purpose. We want the Government to stay out of our Bible, our…..

  11. Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, faith based schools and affiliations. If women seek to act in contrast to the faith then they have chosen to turn their backs on God and the definitive teachings in Scripture. That is your choice. Do not ask persons and institutions of faith to pay for your abortions either by medical instrument assistance or chemical elimination. Upon the transaction of this assault upon my Constitutional rights I will henceforth designate all of my donations to the church towards any measure which will riise up and thwart this sin. I cannot force you to believe as I believe, I can only persuade you. I will not pay for others to disrespect the beauty of the act of sex. The beauty of sex is not orgasmic climax. The beauty of sex is the hope it will produce a magnificent life.

    • Tiffany M. says:

      This isnt about abortion. It’s about birth control. Birth control uses hormones to trick the body into thinking it is pregnant so the fertilization cannot occur. This is nothing like abortion or even morning after pills.

  12. So we are now going to force religious organizations to either violate their religious beliefs or completely drop healthcare coverage for their employees? We may see a huge increase in uninsured. Doesn’t sound like a win to me.

    I believe in birth control. I have an IUD. However, I don’t think you should require it to be paid for by someone who doesn’t believe it is morally right.

    • Should each insured person be allowed to make a moral decision on what procedures or medicines OTHERS are receiving? If so, I don’t want to pay for those who got lung cancer because they smoked for 40 years. I don’t want to pay for fixing the broken bones of those who had stupid, careless accidents. I don’t want to pay for the pregnancies of folks who I think will be bad parents. I don’t want to pay for insulin for diabetics who ate too much.

      See where this line of thinking takes you? The great thing about insurance is that it is SHARED risk, which makes the cost of medical care lower for ALL of us. I like to think of the world holistically, as an ecosystem that keeps things in balance. If we all take care of each other, our ecosystem will be healthier. And religion shouldn’t get in the way of medical care. If you don’t “believe” in birth control, don’t use it!!! Just like if you don’t “believe” in same-sex marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex! But don’t tell others they have to bend to your beliefs.

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