Birth control: The (non)issue blast from the past

President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file).
President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file).
Susan Walsh/AP Photo
President Obama’s commitment to women’s health in the Afforable Care Act includes free preventive care including contraception (that can cost women up to $700 a year).  Under a new rule, employers must offer contraception coverage at no cost. A recent compromise announced by the President and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would exempt religious-affiliated employers with moral objections to birth control from having to provide or pay for it, instead allowing employees to receive contraception coverage directly from their insurance provider. This would insure that women are not forced to choose their jobs based on affordable health care options.

Where are the parties on this? Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has sponsored an amendment with a truck-wide exemption that “would allow anyone to deny any health care service for any reason,” as Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer stated in a press conference last week.

As DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on The Last Word, “President Obama believed that this was an important balance between religious liberty and making sure that women have access to affordable family planning. But the point is that everybody should have an opportunity to make those personal choices themselves, and plan their families the way they want them to be, not the way the government or any employer tells them it should have to be.”

Did you ever think the heated debate in the 2012 election would be… birth control?
“This is the year 2012 and contraception is not controversial,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois told Politico. “Practically 100 percent of women in their lifetime use it.” Wasserman Schultz echoed that sentiment on our show, calling it a “distraction” for Republicans.

“What’s unbelievable, is that instead of focusing on helping the president and congressional Democrats get the economy turned around and create jobs, and continue to jump-start the economy the way President Obama ‘s been able to move us forward, we are actually debating contraception,” she told msnbc’s own Lawrence O’Donnell. “Contraception in which 99 percent of women in America have used at some point in their life. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because the Republicans have no jobs plan — so they need the distraction.”

It’s sparked a conversation about religion and the law: Americans so far seem to be with the Obama Administration on the compromise. Reaffirmed by the latest results from a NYT/CBS poll, a preponderance of 59% of voters (among those 57% were Catholic) agree that health insurance plans should be required to cover the cost of birth control regardless of the employers religious affiliation.

The White House website has also posted a list of religious organizations in approval of the new reform. 

A recent Los Angeles Times op-ed put it this way, “The Roman Catholic Church is dominated by men… Which is why we find ourselves, in the 21st century, with these faiths — and the men who run them — dictating to women on that most vital issue: the health of their own bodies.”

Is the law an infringement of religious liberties or merely a protection of women’s health? Give us your thoughts on the issue in the comment section below.

— By Bonnie Jordan