Women's groups working to save coverage of women's health care under health reform are concerned that President Obama will cave as early as this weekend to demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (all 271 men) to eliminate coverage of birth control without a co-pay.
The reason? The President thinks he "owes" the Bishops for help with passage of health reform.
David Nolan, a spokesperson for Catholics for Choice, told me today, "Obama's definitely listening to the bishops. The bishops seem to have significant sway over the administration, which can be seen by the fact Archbishop Dolan met with [Obama] last week and came out alleging that he felt much more at ease with what was going on after the meeting. Which seems to suggest that Obama made lots of conciliatory noises to the archbishop." The archbishop, Nolan emphasized, does not represent American Catholics, but rather is "the leader of 271 active bishops, and that's who he represents."
Catholics for Choice has launched a campaign urging its supporters to call the White House and express that "Catholics overwhelmingly reject the bishops’ views on contraception" and that it "is discriminatory to deny these women and men access to this important provision simply because the institution where they work or the school they attend is religiously affiliated." The ACLU has launched a similar campaign, arguing that religious freedom "does not mean that we get to impose those beliefs on others."
"There is absolutely no reason to expand this exception," said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, policy counsel for the ACLU. "There's certainly no legal reason for it to be changed. The current rule doesn’t infringe on anyone’s religious liberty as a matter of law."
The Administration has no intention of forcing Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for services that are directly in opposition to their moral beliefs. It does not make any sense from a public policy perspective and it certainly is not smart politically to alienate Catholic voters.
For women ALL Roads to freedom and equality - economic equality and most particularly the ability to avoid poverty START with control of their bodies. If they can't control how they get pregnant and when they will have a child then poverty is the result.
There is theory about something called the Prime Mover - the first action or the first cause. Well for women it IS reproductive rights. It precedes everything. It really is simple. Without the abilty to control your own body then you are a slave to everything else.
Frankly sexism, the need to control women's lives by controlling their bodies and the things that arise from it, are endemic to any social structure. It is ever enduring and even when it seems to be quashed it returns in another form. That is the story in the modern era of women's rights. One step forward after a long struggle - suffrage and then a step back. (And no way do I say that women are not complicit in their own subjugation. We are.)
I am reading The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin. In the epilogue he makes a point of saying that the loss of power and control is what the elite and the reactionary fear the most. More than a specific loss itself the fear the rising volcano of submerged anger and power. And for them it is most acutely felt compulsion for control in the "intimate" arena. That is the most vexing and disturbing of all.
It is why they want to control women. And controlling their reproductive lives is the surefire way to control them.
It is why abortion rights are absolutely central to every other kind of freedom.
When asked for comment on Jacobson's report that the administration believes it "owes" the Bishops, a White House spokesperson directed me to the Department of Health and Human Services, which declined to comment.
I've otherwise been unable to confirm thus far that this was what was communicated by the White House to womens' and reproductive rights groups. However, a source within one such organization, which had representatives at White House meetings on the topic, described the tenor of such meetings as "listening and not giving a sense of where the administration was leaning."
The Washington Post reports this morning that Democratic Senators, on a phone call yesterday with White House senior advisor David Plouffe, argued against adopting the Bishops' position.
My source says it's "not a done deal" yet, but expected action from the White House within a week.