Roundup: Here’s Your Birth Control. Use It and We’ll Fire You!

Robin Marty

Birth control is now available to employees of Catholic Churches in Madison, Wisconsin.  But using it could get you fired.

“Ok, we’ll provide you with this coverage, but don’t use it!”

That appears to be the stance the Catholic Church is taking in Madison, Wisconsin, where a new law requiring that employers offer contraceptives in their health plans has just gone into effect.   And the church is not happy about it at all.  Via Newsradio 620:

Under a new state law, the Madison Catholic Diocese must offer birth control in its health insurance plan.

But a diocesan spokesman warns employees who use it could be fired. Brent King says contraceptives go against Catholic teachings:

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“And with the mandate that all of these policies need to have contraception coverage in it, it’s kind of in the face of directly in the face of what we believe,” King said.

Reproductive rights activists are applauding the change, especially due to the fact that the majority of Catholics use birth control for family planning. From KansasCity.com:

Reproductive health advocates, including the Washington-based Catholics for Choice, criticized the stand, calling birth control “basic health care.”

“The reality is the vast majority of Catholics use contraceptive family planning,” said David Nolan of Catholics for Choice. “And making them access it elsewhere or pay full price because they can’t get it through their insurance is a needless barrier.”

Because birth control is so popular, the church has come up with a master plan on how to deal with employees that might make full use of their benefits, a kind of contraceptive don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

[P]eople who work for the diocese must sign a morals clause agreeing to abide by Catholic teachings. King says they would only fire someone who is especially vocal about using birth control:

“No one would ever be terminated for sinning. We’re all sinners. It would take a very public defiance of what the church believes and teaches for someone to ever get terminated.”

But don’t worry, folks.  You won’t get fired right away if you are caught using prohibited drugs.  According to the Wisconsin State Journal:

Such a step [termination] would be taken only if the employee, after being counseled, refused to get in line with Catholic teaching, King said. “It wouldn’t be the first thing we do,” he said.

Mini-Roundup:  When youth want to know more about sex, they ask their friends.  When they want to know more about preventing pregnancy, they ask their doctors.

August 11, 2010

Supporters Of Colo. ‘Personhood’ Initiative Unveil Strategy To Gather Support – Medical News Today

Economic crisis rekindles Irish debate on abortion – Reuters UK

Carney calls Marino’s claims he ignored abortion vote ‘desperation’ – Towanda Daily Review

Ga. GOP Gubernatorial Race Hinges On Abortion, Other Social Issues – Medical News Today

Poll: Young Hispanics Less Likely to Be Catholic – ABC News

UNC Health Plan Makes Students Pay for Abortion Coverage – Watchdog

Anti-abortion bus tour heading for Evansville Thursday – Evansville Courier & Press

Florida Poll Has Pro-Life Rubio, Pro-Abortion Crist Splitting Senate Race Lead – LifeNews.com

English-Speaking Hispanics More Likely Pro-Abortion Than Spanish Speakers – LifeNews.com

Planned Parenthood Boycott List Now Has Pro-Abortion Firms AOL, Hilton, ING – LifeNews.com

Colorado Senate Race Will Now Feature Pro-Life Ken Buck, Pro-Abortion Bennet – LifeNews.com

Hudson Valley Primary Battle Shaping Up As Obama Referendum – WNYC

An Anniversary of Consequence – First Things

What a country – Ventura County Star

Abortion foes fight Caritas Christi sale – ModernHealthcare.com

Abortion provider Planned Parenthood closes Redwood City office – Catholic San Francisco

‘Mad Men’ and the Politics of Abortion – Politics Daily

Gay Marriage: Leave It to the Voters – Wall Street Journal

The 10th Anniversary of the Choose Life Tag is Celebrated in the NJ State House – Christian News Wire

Young people favour friends for sex info – Sydney Morning Herald

Madison Diocese offers birth control insurance, but warns employees not to use it – Wisconsin State Journal

Fanwood Council: Override Christie’s Veto of Family-Planning Funding – Patch

Family planning: AP set to go slow – Times of India

Young people favor GPs for contraception advice, survey reveals – International Business Times AU

Family Planning Advocates Brace for Impact of Christie Veto – Patch

Argentina’s Reproductive Policies Failing Women – Ms. Magazine

Madison Catholic Diocese Offers Contraceptive Coverage – Newsradio 620

Seeking Catholic Church employees affected by new law on contraceptives – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Contraceptive Pill to be given out by pharmacists – Healthcare Republic

It’s Time to Consider the Girl Effect on HIV – Huffington Post

International Youth Day aims to tackle sexual-health taboos – Daily Star – Lebanon

‘New’ human adenovirus may not make for good vaccines, after all – PhysOrg.com

Women May Not Need to Delay Pregnancy After an Initial Miscarriage – Medscape

Addressing Nepal’s high maternity death-rate – Independent

August 12, 2010

CD8: Paton Endosed by Anti-Abortion Leader – Tucson Weekly

Donnelly says he’s still pro-life; group calls him a liar. – WSBT-TV

Young Hispanics in US losing Catholic identity, survey finds – Catholic Culture

Women’s Health Care in Political Jeopardy … Again – Austin Chronicle

Oral sex more common than previously believed – Sify

A contraceptive mentality – Manila Bulletin

Contraception coverage collides with Catholic Church – Kansas City Star

South Africa: Bolstering the Search for HIV Vaccine – Living With Aids # 443 – AllAfrica.com

USAID helps fight cervical cancer – South Africa.info

Breast is best, but not easy – Ottawa Citizen

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Legislator Confirms Vote on House Conscience Protections (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

UPDATE: July 14, 10 a.m.: The House passed the Conscience Protection Act Wednesday night in a largely party line 245-182 vote. Prior to floor consideration, House Republicans stripped the text of an unrelated Senate-passed bill (S. 304) and replaced it with the Conscience Protection Act. They likely did so to skip the Senate committee referral process, House Democratic aides told Rewire, expediting consideration across the capitol and, in theory, ushering a final bill to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama, however, would veto the Conscience Protection Act, according to a statement of administration policy.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on legislation that would allow a broadened swath of health-care providers to sue if they’re supposedly coerced into providing abortion care, or if they face discrimination for refusing to provide such care, according to a prominent anti-choice lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told Rewire in a Friday morning interview that House leadership confirmed a vote on the Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) for July 13, days before the chamber adjourns for the presidential nominating conventions and the August recess. Pitts said he expects the bill to be brought up as a standalone measure, rather than as an amendment to any of the spending bills that have seen Republican amendments attacking a range of reproductive health care and LGBTQ protections.

The office of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had no immediate comment.

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Pitts’ remarks came during and after he hosted a “Forum on Conscience Protections” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee room to garner support for the bill.

Energy and Commerce Democrats boycotted the forum, a House Democratic aide told Rewire in a subsequent interview.

Legislation Builds on Precedent

Conscience protections are nothing new, the aide said. The latest iteration is a successor to the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919/H.R. 940), which remains pending in the House and U.S. Senate. There’s also the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 50) and similarly named bills in both chambers. The fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services funding bill, which guts Title X and Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, includes the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

At the leadership level, Ryan’s recently released health-care plan mimics key provisions in the Conscience Protection Act. Both would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

The proposals would also codify and expand the Weldon Amendment, named for former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who participated in Pitts’ conscience forum. The Weldon Amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care. Currently, Congress must pass Weldon every year as an amendment to annual appropriations bills.

Administration Action Provides Impetus

There hadn’t been much public dialogue around conscience protections with the exception of some anti-choice groups that “have really been all over it,” the aide said. The National Right to Life issued an action alert, as did the Susan B. Anthony List, to galvanize support for the Conscience Protection Act.

The relative silence on the issue began to break after the Obama administration took a stand on abortion care in June.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights rejected anti-choice groups’ “right of conscience” complaint against California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under the definition of “basic health-care services.” Anti-choice groups had argued the California law violates the Weldon Amendment, but the administration found otherwise.

The California decision reinvigorated support for the Conscience Protection Act, the aide said. Ryan’s earlier health-care plan also specifically references the decision.

“We think this is going to be a big issue for us throughout the rest of this Congress,” the aide said.

Aide Outlines Additional Consequences

Beyond creating a private right of action and codifying Weldon, the Conscience Protection Act contains additional consequences for abortion care, the aide said.

The legislation would expand the definition of health-care providers to employers, social service organizations, and any other entity that offers insurance coverage, allowing them to raise objections under Weldon, the aide said. The aide characterized the change as a direct response to the California decision.

The legislation also broadens the list of objectionable services to include facilitating or making arrangements for abortion care, according to the aide.

The Republican-dominated House is likely to pass the Conscience Protection Act. But the aide did not expect it to advance in the Senate, which would all but certainly require a 60-vote threshold for such a controversial measure. More than anything, the aide said, the bill seems to be catering to anti-choice groups and long-time proponents of conscience clauses.

“The House oftentimes will pass these kinds of anti-choice proposals, and then they just go nowhere in the Senate,” the aide said.