Commentary Contraception

The Panel Congress Really Needs to Hear From

Sarah Audelo

There are many more perspectives Congress needs to hear from on the important topic of contraceptive access…especially when it comes to contraceptive access for women who use birth control to prevent unintended pregnancy. Here is a quick list of folks I’d love to see testifying, as well as a little background to show why their voices are so important.

Cross-posted with permission from Amplify Your Voice.

See all our coverage of the 2012 Contraceptive Mandate here.

For all our coverage of the 2012 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Hearing, click here.

Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee would host a hearing on “Women’s Health.” According to the announcement:

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The sole witness at the hearing will be Ms. Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University, who was blocked from testifying at a recent Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing by Chairman Darrell Issa . Instead, Chairman Issa brought forward a panel of all men to testify on this topic.

While great to give Sandra a space to testify (the story she shares is incredibly compelling-you can click here to listen to what she would have said last week at the Oversight hearing), I must admit that my initial reaction was disappointment in the fact that Sandra is the only person sharing testimony.

Why? Because there are many more perspectives Congress needs to hear from on the important topic of contraceptive access…especially when it comes to contraceptive access for women who use birth control to (get ready for it) prevent unintended pregnancy.

Here is a quick list of folks I’d love to see testifying before Congress on this important issue as well as a little background to show why their voices are so important (and why they’re so great).

Rev. Debra Haffner of the Religious Institute. Quoted from their own website, “Founded in 2001, the Religious Institute is a multi-faith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society. The Religious Institute has emerged as the national leadership organization working at the intersection of sexuality and religion.”

Dr. Renee Jenkins, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Howard University. Dr. Jenkins is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Chair of the Pediatric Section of the National Medical Association, member of the Institute of Medicine and serves on the Board on Children, Youth and Families of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sister Carol Keehan, President of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the organization who previously objected to the initial contraceptive rule from the Obama Administration but later came out in support of the compromise.

The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions…The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed. We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.

Lizzie Jekanowski & Jessika Parry, Co-Presidents of Boston College Students for Sexual Health (BCSSH), “a student group whose mission is to fight for the health education and resources we need and deserve.” In 2009, BCSSH organized a student referendum where with one of the largest voter turnouts, almost 90% of students voted to expand sexual health services on campus-including prescriptions for birth control from their student health center.

Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice, and organization that “strive[s] to be an expression of Catholicism as it is lived by ordinary people. We are part of the great majority of the faithful in the Catholic church who disagrees with the dictates of the Vatican on matters related to sex, marriage, family life and motherhood. We are part of the great majority who believes that Catholic teachings on conscience mean that every individual must follow his or her own conscience — and respect others’ right to do the same.”

Kim (last name withheld for privacy reasons) or other young women who benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s provision allowing young people to stay on their parent’s health insurance. While incredibly helpful when Kim was searching for a job after graduating from college, Kim’s Mom worked at a religious-affiliated hospital and therefore contraception was not covered in her health plan. Kim had to pay out-of-pocket.

Rev. Carlton Veazey, former President of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Rev. Veazey is a “a minister of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Reverend Veazey is founder of the Coalition’s celebrated National Black Church Initiative, which is breaking the silence in African American churches about sex and sexuality. His long and distinguished career in the ministry and public service and his commitment to social justice brought him to the presidency of the coalition of religious groups from 15 denominations and faith traditions.”

Rachel K. Jones and Joerg Dreweke who authored the Guttmacher Institute report “Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use.” In this report the authors discuss actual (instead of what “leaders” push) contraceptive usage of women (married and un-married) of various faiths.

April Flores, a student leader with the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at the University of Texas at Brownsville. April is a teen mom and uses her personal story to advocate for young people’s sexual health and rights in her community. She participated in (along with young people across the country) a Valentine’s Day Action showing support for contraceptive access in a district represented by Rep. Farenthold, the Member of Congress who compared the Administration’s rule on contraception to smoking bans at the Oversight hearing.

And of course Sandra Fluke. The issue of using birth control for medical reasons is an important one that must also be shared. We as a movement just have to be cautious that this is not the only perspective we speak about, even if it makes people feel less awkward. At the end of the day, women (married and un-married) do have sex and don’t always want to conceive as a result of it!

Contraceptive access is an important issue. One that the majority of Americans support. One that I as a Millennial never thought I’d have to be fighting for. I need Congress to take this as serious as the young women I work with.

So while this is my quick take at a dream hearing, I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts. Who else do you think Congress needs to hear from?

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