Commentary Contraception

Will Obama’s Thanksgiving Gift to Female Voters Be a Tax on Women’s Healthcare?

Jodi Jacobson

Women's groups working to save coverage of women's health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay. The reason? The President thinks he "owes" the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.

See all our coverage of the Birth Control Mandate 2011 here

The first paragraph of this piece was updated at 2:25 pm, Wednesday, November 23, 2011 to clarify that the coverage in question would affect women working for religious and quasi-religious, and “religiously affiiiated” organizations whose primary purpose is to perform or offer non-sectarian services.  The primary purpose of a Catholic University attended by students of all faiths, for example, is education. See the full explanation of the current exemption in this article.

Women’s groups working to save coverage of women’s health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay by so expanding the current exemption for churches that  millions of women who work for organizations affiliated with the Church and other anti-choice groups who claim a religious leaning would be denied coverage.

The reason? The President thinks he “owes” the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.

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Really?  See… I thought this President was elected primarily by the hard work and support of women, Latinos, African Americans, and young people.  And the data back me up.  Young voters and Latinos were credited with giving Obama a “commanding victory” in 2008 and, according to post-election analysis, unmarried women were an “even greater source of support.” From USA Today:

Unmarried women—a group that includes single, separated, divorced, or widowed women—voted for Obama over Republican opponent John McCain by a whopping 70 to 29 percent in yesterday’s election, according to numbers released today by Women’s Voices Women Vote, a nonpartisan organization.

Female voters made up 53 percent of all voters responsible for Obama’s victory in 2008.

Moreover, groups representing many millions of women throughout the country worked tirelessly–exhaustively–for well over a year to support the President’s health reform initiative.  They did this even when women lost benefits in the process, supporting the President and able in the end to point at least to gains in coverage of fundamental preventive care such as birth control without a co-pay as a victory.

Now, a President who doesn’t seem to be able to resist pressure to cave on any number of key policy issues is considering actually further diminishing this victory in a kind of bait and switch–promising women they would not lose coverage, but in fact by caving to the Bishops, taking away coverage millions of women already have.

This is a tax on women.  Birth control without insurance coverage can run as much as $600.00 per year. Without consistent access to birth control, women face constant risk of unintended pregnancy, abrogating their fundamental rights to plan their families and make decisions about how many children to have and when; to decide about their own educational and economic paths; to safeguard their own and their family’s health.  Such a tax will of course fall most heavily on low-income women, and therefore most heavily on Latina, African American, and Native American women who already make up a disproportionate share of this economic group.

This is a tax on women, one many groups expect the President may levy as soon as this weekend… because, you know, a holiday weekend is the best time to engage in an act of capitulation and have it get less press attention.

Women’s groups are urging you to act and act now.

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These groups are asking you to join them in telling the White House not to throw women under the bus:

Catholics for Choice

National Women’s Law Center

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

Feminist Majority Foundation

Emily’s List

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health

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Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter:  @jljacobson

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