News Contraception

They Are Coming for Your Birth Control: Is Your Partner a “Stimulating Occasion for Orgasm?”

Robin Marty

How can a marriage survive when you "sacrifice fertility on the altar of sexual freedom?"

Note: Think that anti-choice politicians and activists aren’t trying to outlaw contraception?  Think again.  Follow along in an ongoing series that proves beyond a doubt that they really are coming for your birth control.

It’s time to talk sacrifices. No, not human. Not virgin.

Your “intimate treasures.”

No, this isn’t dirty talk, this is, as always, about babies.

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Baklinski, a “Sacred Theology” scholar, goes a little off subject in a recent LifesiteNews article that is meant to explain why it is imperative that homosexuals not be allowed to get married and why it threatens “traditional” marriage. Unsurprisingly, the argument revolves around marriage for procreation, etc., but sidelines for a bit into why contraception is just as harmful to marriage as the gays.

The destroyers of the family began by splitting husbands apart from wives. They did this by introducing contraception into the sexual act under the guise of ‘sexual freedom’. With contraception, spouses took each other’s intimate treasure of fertility and sacrificed it on the altar of sexual freedom so as to increase their sexual availability with ‘no consequences.’

But in disregarding the ‘whole person’ by excluding fertility, contracepting husbands and wives began to relate to one another merely as stimulating occasions for orgasm.

Oh no! The babies are being sacrificed on the altar!  Won’t someone save them?

It’s an interesting line of euphemisms that Baklinski offers. Fertility is a treasure, yet the actual offspring is a “consequence” of sex. It’s almost like there is mindset where creating life is sacred and protected, but the actual life child itself is a punishment that a couple must endure for the sake of having sex.

I’m sorry. I mean for having “stimulating occasions for orgasms.”

The juxtaposition from treasure to consequence is very reminiscent of the same political mentality that cuts off access to abortion, emotionally manipulates those who are pregnant into giving birth, then refuses to provide support for the family once the child is born.

If you are planning to stimulate a few occasions with your partner, and intend to sacrifice your treasure, you’d better be sure you have some contraception on hand to be safe. Because they are definitely coming for your birth control.

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.

Analysis Law and Policy

No Solution in Sight for Supreme Court Birth Control Fight

Jessica Mason Pieklo

With all the legal briefs filed to the Supreme Court and no solutions proposed, it's going to be up to the justices to put an end to the lawsuits swarming the Affordable Care Act.

By late Wednesday evening when the final supplemental briefs were filed in Zubik v. Burwell, the challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, it was clear this case will not have a clean ending. In fact, it could very well result in a deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court and patchwork contraception insurance coverage across the country.

Almost exactly a week after oral arguments in Zubik, the Court justices ordered attorneys from both sides to file briefs setting out possible paths to resolving the case, in a move signaling they were looking to prevent a tied 4-4 ruling. Specifically, the Court asked the lawyers to address whether religiously affiliated nonprofit hospitals, nursing homes, and colleges could be separated out from a government-administered health insurance plan that would be the source of contraceptives for the nonprofits’ employees and students. In its initial responses, the Obama administration grudgingly admitted the idea proposed by the Court was theoretically possible, but insisted it was both impractical and not currently allowed under the ACA.

The religious objectors, on the other hand, insisted that if the contraception benefit contained an exemption for churches, it should have the same exemption for hospitals and universities. And while the religious objectors didn’t come right out and say so in this latest round of briefs, if they get an exemption then so too, eventually, would secular for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby.

The religious objectors have insisted that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is broad enough to allow the objectors to interfere with, based on religious principle, third-party insurance companies from offering contraception insurance for their employees and students. But that argument evolved during oral arguments in March—or rather, the religious objectors clarified to the Roberts Court that if the Court was nervous about making such a ruling based on the precedent it would set for future RFRA challenges, then the Court should just grant businesses full exemptions from the law. The effect of such a ruling would be to block, writ large, contraception access for private employees and students altogether unless the government were to step in and provide that coverage directly.

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In its final supplemental briefing to the Roberts Court, the religious objectors finally came clean and made that argument directly. “[I]f the government really believes the only way to accomplish its objectives [of providing seamless contraception coverage] is to force every religious nonprofit to contract for an insured plan so the government will have something suitable to piggyback on, then petitioners’ concerns that the government wants to hijack their plans have been confirmed,” wrote the objectors. They continued, “Petitioners’ alternative—where the separate policies offered by commercial insurers are offered to employees of self-insured objectors as well—would reinforce the true separateness of those policies, rather than just reinforcing the RFRA violation.”

The Obama administration opened its supplemental brief taking this clarified argument by the religious objectors to the woodshed: “In a sharp departure, petitioners now acknowledge that they cannot invoke RFRA to prevent the government from requiring that the insurers with which they contract also provide separate contraceptive coverage to their employees.”

“But petitioners assert that it is not enough that insurers provide that coverage entirely outside petitioners’ health plans and without their involvement, as the accommodation already requires,” it continued. “Petitioners also insist that the coverage must consist of contraceptive-only insurance policies, not direct payments [to anyone] for contraceptives. And they add that women must take affirmative steps to enroll, and cannot be covered automatically.”

In other words, the religious objectors’ legal argument is that they are entitled under RFRA to make accessing contraception coverage in the private marketplace as onerous as possible, the result of which would mean many people would just not get the contraception they need.

This sounds a lot like conservatives’ approaches to abortion restrictions. And it should. The same sense of moral entitlement to regulate ad infinitum women’s bodies, expressed as the state’s interest in promoting fetal “personhood,” is the theoretical precursor to the religious objectors’ arguments in Zubik. In litigating the availability of contraception coverage under the ACA, religious objectors have effectively borrowed the moral justifications anti-choice lawmakers use to restrict abortion access—that women’s health care must always take a back seat to purported claims of religious freedom—and pasted them into their legal arguments as to why the private sector has the right to dictate who can access contraception in this country, and when and how.

With a Supreme Court evenly split ideologically on the contraception benefit and the limits of RFRA, it’s unlikely these latest briefs will do anything to avoid a split decision here. If these challenges are going to get resolved this term, and with them the argument that private employers can block their employees from accessing contraception coverage, then one of the justices is going to have to change their mind. Right now, that seems like a stretch.