By Sonia Ossorio, President, National Organization for Women – New York City
First a group of celibate men (Catholic Bishops) tried to deny millions of women no-cost birth control, and now Congress is vowing to do the same. Where will that leave Valentine’s Day? Without our birth control, Valentine’s Day could go the way of the VCR player.
The anti-birth control movement is growing in Congress. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. More than 35 Republican and Democratic Senators have signed on to Senator Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, that would gut the new guidelines that require insurance companies to cover preventive services for women, like prenatal care for single women and birth control.
Not to be outdone, Senator Marco Rubio (R- FL) introduced, along with 22 co-sponsors, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, which also amends the Affordable Care Act and allows “an individual or entity on the basis of a religiously based decision” to deny contraceptive or sterilization coverage.
With 3.2 million unintended pregnancies each year in the U.S. and birth control co-pays running as high as $600 a year – ushering in no-cost birth control coverage is one of the great victories of health care reform, and the majority of Americans agree. Singlehandedly, access to free birth control with insurance, can have a major impact on poverty, abortion rates, and women’s health.
Nonetheless, the Obama Administration has been under intense fire from not only Catholic Bishops, but a newly-minted band of anti-birth control lawmakers including Rubio, Blunt and every Republican presidential candidate.
Mitt Romney denounced no-copay birth control and pledged to defund Planned Parenthood, which serves more than 7 million women, many low income, at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Committee Conference. This past Sunday, Newt Gingrich proclaimed on CBS’s Face the Nation, that making the Catholic Church, one of the largest employers in the country, offer its millions of employees co-pay free birth control, “is the most outrageous assault on religious freedom in American history.”
It’s Rick Santorum though who takes the prize. He has gone so far as to say he opposes the 1965 Supreme Court ruling that prevented Connecticut from banning contraception and that states should have the right to outlaw birth control.
The erosion of women’s rights didn’t begin with the GOP takeover, it began with the Catholic Conference of Bishops, who spend millions trying to convince politicians that they control the Catholic vote and that Catholics, not just the top brass of the Catholic Church, are passionately anti-birth control and anti-abortion. Never mind that nearly every sexually active woman — including 98 percent of Catholic women — will rely on birth control at some point in their lives.
Most Americans never thought we’d see the day when our Congressional leaders, including Democrats, would openly attack birth control and basic family planning services. But that is what is happening right now.
It’s only fitting that on Valentine’s Day, women across the nation have decided to mark this day that celebrates love and romance, with a clear message: Forget the roses, stop playing politics with our lives and we’ll take that no co-pay birth control instead.
Sonia Ossorio is President of National Organization for Women-NYC