News Contraception

They Are Coming for Your Birth Control: “Get Your Perverse Acts Out of My Pocketbook!”

Robin Marty

Not even condoms are safe when they are coming for your birth control. Especially if those condoms are extra sensitive.

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.

If you are a resident of the city of Milwaukee, you’d better be on the alert for the newest threat to your taxpayer dollars. Some of it may be going to fund cases and cases of condoms.

But these are not just your “everyday condoms,” according to one radio host. No, these are wasteful, expensive, rainbow-colored, super-sensitive condoms. Taxpayers are allegedly footing the bill for these Mercedes of all prophylactics, instead of just buying regular opaque generics. How fiscally irresponsible!

In fact, after doing a bit of math, the radio host claims that the cost in purchasing fancy colorful condoms versus plain condoms comes to an additional $12,000. That’s coincidentally enough exactly how much the Wisconsin tax payers are paying for the program, the rest of which is covered by grants.

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Pro-Life Wisconsin agrees: these are rainbow colored pockets of sin, and taxes shouldn’t be used to pay. Via WTMJ in Wisconsin, Peggy Hamill of Pro-Life Wisconsin condemned the attempts to provide better access to condoms in general, and especially fancy-pants condoms and lubricants.

“There used to be a sense of culture and decency in our culture, but here, now, to find out that the city of Milwaukee is planning on being involved in something so seedy is disgusting…we hear often of people saying “keep your rosary off my ovaries,” or “stay out of my bedroom.” My thought is “keep your private parts and your perverse acts out of my pocketbook.”

Really? Sexual intercourse with a condom is a “perverse act?” Hamill even goes on to claim condoms do nothing to prevent sexually transmitted diseases due to “leakages” and “rips.”

Why is the city paying so much money to purchase these latex perversions? The condoms are passed out to clinics in Milwaukee in order to help combat sexual health problems such as unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, a spokeswoman from the Department of Health explains during the interview. “We give them out to our clients who come into our STD clinics. We give them out to our home visitation clients and we give them out on our sites and at our clinics.” She also notes that the department spends 6 to 7 cents per condom, that having a variety of colors and types makes people more inclined to take them and use them, and that using lubricants make condom use more effective (take that, “leakages” and “rips”).

Pro-Life Wisconsin has long been pubicly opposed to the birth control pill, spreading false information that it causes abortions. But condoms? Now we know that they are coming for ALL of your birth control.

Especially if it is rainbow-colored.

Analysis Law and Policy

Religious Nonprofits Press Supreme Court for Full Exemption From Birth Control Benefit

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Supreme Court ordered the Obama administration and religiously affiliated nonprofits to work out a solution to the challenges to the Affordable Care Act's birth control benefit. Not surprisingly, the religiously affiliated nonprofits refuse to do so.

In late March, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, the lead case challenging the Obama administration’s process for accommodating religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. It was apparent then that the remaining eight justices were deadlocked as to whether the process did enough to protect the religious objections of the nursing home operators and university administrators who had launched this latest round of lawsuits.

Hoping to avoid a split decision—which would subject some religiously affiliated nonprofits to penalties if they failed to follow the accommodation process and not others, depending on their appellate court circuit —the justices ordered the government and the religious objectors to try and find a solution both sides could work with and present it to the court via briefing in April. Well, the nonprofits and the Obama administration have filed that first round of briefing. And if the Roberts Court thought the religious objectors were interested in any sort of real solution to the problems posed in their lawsuits, it was mistaken. The negotiating position for the religiously affiliated challengers remains: full exemption from the requirement or bust.

In its order asking for supplemental briefing, the Roberts Court asked parties on both sides to address whether “contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners’ employees through petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.” According to the nonprofits, “[t]he answer to that question is clear and simple: Yes.”

If only it were that clear and that simple.

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In the remaining 20-plus pages of the nonprofits’ brief, their lawyers set out a variety of options that could, they say, provide seamless contraception coverage while preventing the nonprofits from in any way “facilitating” the sin of providing health insurance plans that include contraception. But the thing is, none of those options are actually accommodations to the ACA’s requirement that employer-provided health insurance plans cover contraception at no additional cost or co-pay.

One of the religious objectors’ solutions, for example, is to have the government directly require insurance companies to create entirely new and separate contraception-only plans. The companies would then contact plan beneficiaries directly with information about the policy and how to enroll. These separate plans, objectors offer, could take the form of individual insurance policies or of group health plans sponsored by the government.

In other words, one option is for the government to come up with an entirely different regulatory scheme for dealing with contraception altogether. That scheme would apply to religiously affiliated nonprofits and presumably the secular for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby that petitioned the Roberts Court for the very same accommodation now regarded by objectors as too onerous for compliance.

The fact this is one option offered up by the religiously affiliated nonprofits should come as no surprise. It’s right out of the anti-choice playbook with regard to insurance coverage for abortion. As states set up their own insurance exchanges during the implementation of the ACA, anti-choice politicians were quick to put restrictions on the kinds of coverage for abortion that insurance companies could offer in individual or employer-sponsored plans. So far, 10 states ban abortion coverage generally, while 25 ban abortion coverage in their exchanges. In other words, if you happen to live in Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, or Utah, you cannot purchase a health insurance plan that covers abortion. At all. Including through your employer. Meanwhile, states like Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin—just to name a few—prevent comprehensive health insurance plans that cover abortion from being sold on their state exchanges.

Do we really think that if this “contraception insurance” plan offered by the religiously affiliated institutions were to become the “solution” to these legal challenges, the result would look any different than it has for insurance coverage for abortion? Hypothetically, broad contraceptive coverage could end across the country, with many states banning the coverage altogether. This, of course, is the exact scenario the Supreme Court is hoping to avoid.

All of the objectors’ “solutions” are, in fact, just other ways of granting exemptions from the birth control benefit. In other words, they seem to be saying, if and when religiously affiliated hospitals, nursing homes, and day care centers can be treated under the law the same way as churches, synagogues, and mosques, then the lawsuits will stop.

That doesn’t sound so much like a compromise as it does a threat.

The Obama administration has until April 20 to respond directly to the petitioners’ arguments. It has already filed its own briefing arguing the process as it stands completely accommodates any religious objections in a way that balances the government’s compelling interest in promoting nondiscriminatory health insurance coverage for employees while respecting the beliefs of those who see contraception as sin.

But perhaps most importantly, the government’s brief argues that any additional tinkering with the accommodation process, rather than a ruling on the merits by the Roberts Court that the current process is sufficient, will only result in many more years of litigation. And it’s a point the petitioners pretty much concede by failing to offer up any workable compromise at all.

Culture & Conversation Abortion

Why Students Are Declaring They Are #AbortionPositive

Katie Klabusich

Students, speakers from local reproductive health clinics, and abortion storytellers are empowering each other and their communities to declare: “We are Abortion Positive, are you?”

This month, student organizers with URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity and partner All* Above All are declaring they are #AbortionPositive to counter state legislators’ narratives against abortion care.

More than one-quarter of the 1,074 abortion restrictions passed since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 legalizing the procedure were enacted between 2011 and 2015. Through the national tour, millennials on ten campuses in five of the worst states for reproductive rights are looking to stop that momentum in its tracks by ending abortion stigma.

Students, speakers from local reproductive health clinics, and abortion storytellers are empowering each other and their communities to declare: “We are Abortion Positive, are you?”

“While anti-abortion activists use gruesome and insensitive imagery to reach college students, we believe an empowering, honest, abortion-positive approach is more motivating to young people,” URGE Executive Director Kierra Johnson said in a statement. “Young people support access to abortion, and they are energized to start turning back the tide of anti-choice restrictions on our bodies and our choices.”

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The tour kicked off on April 5 at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in time to further bolster support for the EACH Woman Act. The bill would end insurance bans on abortion like the Hyde Amendment, which greatly limits access to care for anyone with a federal insurance plan like Medicaid.

The tour’s reception in those states indicates more than just a willingness to hear what organizers had to say. Those who turned out enthusiastically signed petitions and asked how to get more involved.

“We had so many students come up to us and say how refreshing it was to see positive, uplifting ways to talk about this issue,” URGE Ohio State Organizer Allie Lahey said after the event. “We had a great turnout and response; over 250 students signed our petition in support of abortion coverage.”

First-year Bowling Green State University student and URGE canvasser McKenna Morrissey told Rewire that she was encouraged about the response from students who happened upon the event.

“The turnout was really awesome; we got a lot of support from people,” said Morrissey, who was wearing her “Abortion: I got 99 problems, but pregnancy ain’t one” abortion-positive t-shirt at the rally. Only one or two people questioned the sentiment behind her apparel choice. She took the opportunity to dispel widespread myths about abortion regret.

“They were asking, ‘Why do you have that? I support abortion, but that’s kind of not OK,’” Morrissey said. “So I asked why we shouldn’t be saying ‘abortion positive.’ [I told them] the most common feeling people have after an abortion is relief.”

Morrissey joined up with URGE almost the moment she stepped on campus. She said her mom had been abortion positive when she was growing up in Ohio, supporting her interest in learning more and getting involved in reproductive justice causes from a very young age.

When asked why this cause matters so much to her, Morrissey said simply: “Because it applies to me.”

URGE organizers have taken a bold, unapologetic stance on the tour page:

Abortion is a personal choice, but abortion access is also a public good. The world is better when anyone who needs an abortion can get one—easily, affordably, without stigma, and free from political interference.

But some of those who stopped by the Ohio rally didn’t want to talk about abortion, which Morrissey attributed to the stigma around the word and the procedure.

“A lot of people didn’t want to talk about abortion, period,” she said. “It’s the stigma around it—that’s the whole point of the tour, to say abortion’s not a bad word. That’s why I’m abortion positive, to get rid of the stigma.”

One of the speakers who stood out to Morrissey spoke about contraception sabotage—a controlling behavior abusers use to trap people in relationships.

“[She] spoke about how she worked really long hours, how she got pregnant without her consent,” Morrissey said. “Her partner had not been wearing condoms when he said he would. She was really strong.”

The other speaker Morrissey found powerful talked about their privilege, how easy it was for them to access necessary abortion care.

“It really touched me,” she said. “They spoke about their support network, raising awareness about the way it is for others. That was really great [for the tour goal]. When you’re abortion positive, you show you’re here for anyone who wants an abortion.”

That attitude—that the only reason someone should need to access abortion care is not wanting to be pregnant—is a hallmark of outspoken abortion provider Dr. Willie Parker, who was a surprise speaker at the #AbortionPositive stop at the University of Alabama.

“We have to deal with the reality that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime,” Dr. Parker told URGE organizers after the event. “Almost 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned. And unplanned doesn’t mean unwanted, but it means that when a woman has an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, she has to have access to services.”

When asked by an URGE staff why a tour like this is so important right now, Dr. Parker referenced the “hundreds of laws that have passed … at the local and state level from over 1,000 bills” over the past decade.

“[That] means that there are people who have a certain understanding who are controlling politics and they’re allowing politics to trump medicine. Abortion is health care,” he said.

“That decision [about an unplanned pregnancy], that access has been politicized, it’s been moralized. So it’s now couched in the frame of making vital health services for women illegal with regard to political activity. And … it’s made into something that’s stigmatized and shameful because people with a certain religious understanding oppose it.”

Dr. Parker explained that the only way to reduce the stigma and overturn harmful laws is for people to break their silence and complicity to engage in the political process.

“It is very important for people who understand that abortion is both moral and that it is health care and therefore it should be legal—that the voices [of those] who understand that need to raise a counter-narrative to the voices that are currently in the ascendancy,” he said.

The widespread notion that the millennial generation isn’t engaged in the way Dr. Parker called for is another inaccuracy Morrissey pushed back on when she spoke with Rewire. While she has heard some of her peers say openly they weren’t voting in the primary, the election and politics in general are frequent topics of discussion on campus. Even those who have yet to throw their support behind a candidate are plugged in online, and most of her friends are involved in civic causes like registering people to vote—another passion of hers. She encourages people to exercise that right and to get involved wherever they are.

“The way you can get involved is joining organizations on campus; there are a lot of chapters of URGE,” said Morrissey. “It’s no one’s job but your own—you do need to educate yourself .… If people start speaking out about [the 288 laws passed from 2011-2015], we can make a difference. I feel like our side needs to be unapologetic and loud.”

The #AbortionPositive tour has upcoming stops in Georgia, Kansas, and Texas.