Roundup: Would You Like Your Abortion Regular, or Decaf? A “He Said What?” Roundup

Robin Marty

People say really amazing things when it comes to reproductive rights. Here are just a few recent statements that are making news.

As rhetoric gets more and more heated around the debate for reproductive rights, more and more outrageous things are coming out of people’s mouths.  And in this case, the proverbial mouth is that of high-level representatives of the Catholic church, who recently compared the “habit” of abortion to “having a cup of coffee.”

From the California Catholic Daily:

There is another aspect “that must be considered among these pathologies that for us is also very dangerous,” [The new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula] said. “It is spoken of very little and is of less concern to the public, and even to the scientific community, and that is the grave phenomenon of the habit of abortion.”

The problem, he said, “was made manifest in all of its gravity when 20 years ago, after the devastating earthquake in Armenia (1989), a team of doctors from the Sacred Heart Catholic University traveled to the region to provide medical assistance and discovered that many women had undergone as many as 20 abortions or more. For them, having an abortion had become something like having a cup of coffee [emphasis added]. Thus they talked about the dramatic phenomenon of completely erasing any moral sensitivity to the issue of abortion.”

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But the Archbishop isn’t the only one saying some pretty outrageous things recently.  A parish priest in El Paso reminds readers in a guest column in the El Paso Times that you cannot be a Catholic without opposing abortion, as well as gay marriage, and that it is a mortal sin not to actively fight against them.

I sincerely hope and pray that all El Paso Catholics will take to heart the precious and infallible teachings of Holy Mother Church in the moral sphere, particularly those most relevant to our city at this critical juncture.

Remember: Every single Catholic, out of fidelity to charity and truth, has the absolute duty to oppose (1) the murder of unborn babies, and (2) any and all government attempts to legalize homosexual unions.

Abortion and homosexual acts are unequivocally intrinsic moral evils. And friends, this objective truth doesn’t depend on the opinion of the majority. Frighteningly, if the majority chooses to deny the objective moral order, then we will all suffer the pestiferous consequences.

It is perhaps most interesting that part of Rev. Rodriguez’s argument relies on the idea that just because the majority believes something doesn’t make it right, when anti-choice activists have been pushing the idea that a majority of Americans now identify as pro-life as a reason to end abortion all together, despite the legality of the procedure.

But apparently there is one thing more offensive to conservatives than abortion, and that’s the threat of more immigrants in the country.  Or, as leaders in the anti-immigrant community are calling it, an “invasion by birth canal.”  Via Jezabel:

“It’s invasion by birth canal,” the leader of a California anti-immigrant ballot initiative told the Los Angeles Times. The head of an anti-immigrant group in Virginia called for an investigation into “whether or not illegal aliens have a preferred breeding season.” According to Texas Republican Representative Ron Paul, “awarding automatic citizenship to children born here minutes after their mothers illegally cross the border” is “a matter of national security.”

Strange as it may be, in some cases you find wisdom and reason in the most unexpected of places.  And this time, it’s from Playboy mansion owner Hugh Hefner, speaking out on his history of involvement with reproductive rights with Fox News:

While Hugh Hefner is best known as the founder of men’s magazine Playboy, over the last six decades, the 84-year-old has also played a particularly prominent role as a political and social activist – a side of him that has been illuminated in Brigitte Berman’s new documentary “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel.”

In conjunction with his support of women’s rights, Hef’s Playboy Foundation (a non-profit organization he established in1965) also worked to advocate abortion rights across America. In particular, Hefner said he sent his legal team to Florida in 1971 after receiving a letter from a woman who was given a 15-year jail term and accused of manslaughter for having an abortion. The case was then re-opened and the woman was re-sentenced to house arrest for a minimal amount of time, and state abortion laws were later amended.

“We fought for birth control rights and the change in birth control laws, the change in abortion laws, we fought cases to give women the right to choose,” Hefner explained. “For me it was part and parcel of same thing, I fought the same way for gay rights and black rights. I believe in the notion of democracy and the notion of being free. That’s what I believe America should be all about.”

Mini Roundup: 12th and Delaware premired last night.  Some loved it, some thought the portrayal may not have been very accurate.  Did you get a chance to see it?  Tell us what you thought in the comments!

Note: Due to a problem with feeds, we do not have the usual compilation of links today.  We hope to have things up and running again tomorrow. Thank you for your patience.

August 3

Kitzhaber wins backing of abortion rights groups – OregonLive.com
Anti-choice scare tactics – Socialist Worker Online
Women’s advocate wants arbortion legalized – Manila Standard Today
Television review: ’12th and Delaware’ – Los Angeles Times
Abortion Rights Advocates Eye Race For Governor – WSJM
Misoprostol Has Potential For ‘Gynecological Revolution’ In Abortion Access – Medical News Today
The moral panic about kids on the Pill is ridiculous – Telegraph.co.uk (blog)
Female Birth Control: Once a week patch being tested – 33 KDAF-TV
Time to panic? More preteens are on birth control – Salon
An Interview with Naomi Cahn and June Carbone – Bookslut
Unintended consequences: Do birth control pills affect male fish? – La Crosse Tribune
New type of permanent birth control – 10 Connects
Study: Weight not a factor in use of birth control pill – WNCT
State aims to improve women’s reproductive health before pregnancy – Salt Lake Tribune
Indian company makes condom for gay men – Gay NZ
Democratic women legislators pushing to restore $7.5 million for family planning – newjerseynewsroom.com
Bill seeks action to curb brutality against women globally – MiamiHerald.com
Hopes are high as the United Nations launches an agency for women – The Guardian
Zambia: Reasearchers’ HIV gel success claims receive mixed feelings – Lusaka Times
Sex Worker Detained After Rally – Wall Street Journal (blog)
Africa must focus on maternal health: ex-Irish president
In Canada, money may matter for cancer survival – Reuters Canada
Protest in China for legal brothels, organizer held – Washington Post

News Politics

Rep. Steve King: What Have People Of Color Contributed to Civilization?

Ally Boguhn

King came under fire this month after local news station KCAU aired footage showing that the Iowa representative keeps a Confederate flag displayed on his desk.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Monday questioned what “contributions” people of color have made to civilization while appearing on an MSNBC panel during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

King’s comments came during a discussion on racial diversity within the Republican Party in which fellow panelist Charles P. Pierce said, “If you’re really optimistic, you can say this was the last time that old white people would command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, its public face.”

“That [convention] hall is wired by loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people,” Pierce added.

“This ‘old white people’ business though does get a little tired, Charlie,” King responded. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

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“Than white people,” Hayes attempted to clarify.

“Than Western civilization itself,” King said. “It’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”

Another panelist, reporter April Ryan, countered “What about Asia? What about Africa?” before the panel broke out into disarray. Hayes moved to cut off the group, telling them, “We’re not going to argue the history of civilization.”

“Let me note for the record that if you’re looking at the ledger of Western civilization, for every flourishing democracy you’ve got Hitler and Stalin as well,” Hayes said. “So there’s a lot on both sides.”

Hayes justified abruptly ending the conversation about King’s comments in a series of tweets, saying that he had been “pretty taken aback by” the comments.

“The entire notion of debating which race/civilization/ ‘sub group’ contributed most or is best is as odious as it is preposterous,” Hayes tweeted. “Which is why I said ‘we’re not debating this here.’ But I hear people who think I made the wrong call in the moment. Maybe I did.”

King came under fire this month after local news station KCAU aired footage showing that the Iowa representative keeps a Confederate flag displayed on his desk. King, speaking with Iowa talk radio host Jeff Angelo, defended keeping the flag in his office.

“This is a free country and there’s freedom of speech,” King said, according to Right Wing Watch. “And, by the way, I’d encourage people to go back and read the real history of the Civil War and find out what it was about. A small part of it was about slavery, but there was a big part of it that was about states’ rights, it was about people that defended their homeland and fought next to their neighbors and their family.”

As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump explained in a report on King’s comments, “there have been a great number of non-white contributions to human civilization.”

“Civilization first arose in cities in Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq and Syria. Arabic and Middle Eastern inventors and scientists brought astronomy to the world, which in turn aided innovations in navigation,” Bump wrote. “Critical innovations in mathematics and architecture originated in the same area. The Chinese contributed philosophical precepts and early monetary systems, among other things. The specific inventions that were created outside of the Western world are too many to list: the seismograph, the umbrella, gunpowder, stirrups, the compass.”

Commentary Law and Policy

Here’s What You Need to Know About Your Birth Control Access Post-Supreme Court Ruling

Bridgette Dunlap

Yes, the Zubik v. Burwell case challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate. But that shouldn't stop you from getting your reproductive health needs met—without a co-payment.

In May, the Supreme Court issued a sort of non-decision in Zubik v. Burwell, the consolidated case challenging the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage. The ruling leaves some very important legal questions unanswered, but it is imperative that criticism of the Court for “punting” or leaving women in “limbo” not obscure the practical reality: that the vast majority of people with insurance are currently entitled to contraception without a co-payment—that includes people, for the most part, who work for religiously affiliated organizations.

Two years ago, hyperbole in response to the Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby—that, for example, the Court had ruled your boss can block your birth control—led too many people to believe the contraceptive coverage requirement was struck down. It wasn’t. The Zubik decision provides a good opportunity to make sure that is understood.

If people think they don’t have birth control coverage, they won’t use it. And if they don’t know what coverage is legally required, they won’t know when their plans are not in compliance with the law and overcharging them for contraceptives or other covered services, perhaps unintentionally. The point of the contraceptive coverage rule is to make it as easy as possible to access contraceptives—studies show seemingly small obstacles prevent consistent use of the most effective contraceptives. Eliminating financial barriers isn’t enough if informational ones undermine the goal.

The most important thing to know is that most health plans are currently required to cover reproductive health services without a co-payment, including:

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  • One version of every kind of FDA-approved contraception—that is, only the generic or the brand-name version of the contraceptive could be covered, but at least one must be. So you shouldn’t be paying a co-payment whether you use the pill, the patch, the shot, or want long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) like an IUD, which is more expensive, but most effective.
  • Screening for HIV and high-risk strains of HPV
  • An annual well-woman visit
  • Breastfeeding counseling and supplies like pumps

There are exceptions, but most plans should be covering these services without a co-payment. Don’t assume that because you work for Hobby Lobby or Notre Dame—or any other religiously affiliated employer—that you don’t currently have coverage.

The original contraceptive coverage rule had an “exemption” for church-type groups (on the somewhat dubious theory that such groups primarily employ individuals who would share their employers’ objection to contraception). When other kinds of organizations, which had religious affiliations but didn’t primarily employ individuals of that same religion, objected to providing contraceptive coverage, the Obama administration came up with a plan to accommodate them while still making sure women get contraceptive coverage.

This “accommodation” is a workaround that transfers the responsibility to provide contraceptive coverage from the employer to the insurance company. After the employer fills out a form noting it objects to providing contraception, the insurance company must reach out to the employee and provide separate coverage that the objecting organization doesn’t pay for or arrange.

This accommodation was originally available only to nonprofit organizations. But dozens of for-profits, like Hobby Lobby, sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—arguing that their owners were religious people whose beliefs were also burdened by the company having to provide coverage.

The Hobby Lobby decision did not say your boss’s religious belief trumps your right to a quality health plan. What the Court did was point to the existence of the accommodation for nonprofits as proof that the government could achieve its goals of ensuring coverage of contraception through a workaround already in place to give greater protection to objectors. Basically, the Court told the government to give the for-profits the same treatment as the nonprofits.

The Hobby Lobby decision states explicitly that the effect of this on women should be “precisely zero.” The Obama administration subsequently amended the contraceptive regulations, making coverage available to employees of companies like Hobby Lobby available through the accommodation. Hobby Lobby added some headaches for administrators and patients, but it did not eliminate the contraceptive coverage rule.

Next, however, the nonprofits went on to argue to the Supreme Court and the public that the accommodation the Court had seemed to bless in Hobby Lobby also violated RFRA—because having to fill out a form, which notified the government that they objected to contraceptive coverage and identifying their insurers, would substantially burden their religious beliefs.

Following oral arguments in Zubik, the eight-member Supreme Court issued a highly unusual order: It asked the parties to respond to its proposed modification of the accommodation, in which the government would not require objecting nonprofits to self-certify that they oppose contraception nor to identify their insurers. The government would take an organization’s decision to contract for a health plan that does not cover contraception to be notice of a religious objection and go ahead with requiring the insurer to provide it instead.

The petitioners’ response to the Court’s proposed solution was “Yes, but…” They said the Court’s plan would be fine so long as the employee had to opt into the coverage, use a separate insurance card, and jump through various other hoops—defeating the goal of providing “seamless” contraceptive coverage through the accommodation.

When the Court issued its decision in Zubik, it ignored the “but.” It characterized the parties as being in agreement and sent the cases back to the lower courts to work out the compromise.

The Court told the government it could consider itself on notice of the petitioners’ objections and move forward with getting separate contraceptive coverage to the petitioners’ employees, through the accommodation process, but without the self-certification form. How the government will change the accommodation process, and whether it will satisfy the petitioners, are open questions. The case could end up back at the Supreme Court if the petitioners won’t compromise and one of the lower courts rules for them again. But for prospective patients, the main takeaway is that the Court ruled the government can move forward now with requiring petitioners’ insurers to provide the coverage that the petitioners won’t.

So—if your plan isn’t grandfathered, and you don’t work for a church or an organization that has sued the government, your insurance should be covering birth control without a co-payment. (If your plan is grandfathered and your employer makes a change to that plan, then those formerly grandfathered plans would be subject to the same contraceptive coverage requirements.) If you do work for one of the nonprofit petitioners, the government should be making contraceptive coverage available even before the litigation is resolved. And in some cases, employees of the petitioners already have coverage. Notre Dame, for example, initially accepted the accommodation before being pressured by off-campus contraception opponents to sue, so its insurer is currently providing Notre Dame students and employees coverage.

Don’t despair about the Supreme Court’s gutting access to contraception. Assume that you have coverage. The National Women’s Law Center has great resources here for finding out if your plan is required to cover contraception and how to address it with your insurance plan if it isn’t in compliance, and a hotline to call if you need help. The fact that equitable coverage of women’s health care is the new status quo is a very big deal that can be lost in the news about the unprecedented litigation campaign to block access to birth control and attacks on Obamacare more generally. Seriously, tell your friends.