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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Liberal Catholics implore President Obama not to turn his back on women

In an open letter to President Obama published on Monday’s New York Times op-ed page, the liberal pressure group Catholics for Choice called on the President to ensure that family planning is included on the list of essential preventive services under the Affordable Care Act.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been lobbying hard, calling for the president to include an expansive refusal clause that will ensure that millions of women and men are denied no-cost family planning coverage. The text of the letter reads:

Providing no-cost family planning is good public health policy and an important advance under the Affordable Care Act. But if you grant the refusal clause the Catholic bishops want, you will be supporting discrimination against millions of Americans, both Catholic and non-Catholic, simply because of where they work or go to school.

The majority of American Catholics support affordable access to contraception for all women and men, especially during these tough economic times. Catholics themselves use contraception: 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used the family planning the bishops want you to exclude from healthcare coverage.

Expanding refusal clauses to allow some institutions and universities to refuse to provide coverage for contraception is not what you promised in healthcare reform. Giving in to the bishops’ demands will mean preventive healthcare will cost more—not less—for millions of healthcare and social service employees, teachers and university students and their families.

American taxpayers’ dollars should be used for the common good and to enable people to exercise their conscience-based healthcare decisions.

If you want to do what’s right by American Catholics, don’t make this deal with the bishops. Listen to the majority of the 68 million Catholics who want contraceptive coverage for everyone, not the 271 active bishops in the United States who don’t.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said, “President Obama promised the American people that under his administration people wouldn’t lose healthcare coverage they need. He promised he’d make decisions based on science and medically accurate information. Now, the president is considering siding with the Catholic bishops to make it harder and more expensive for millions of American women to get family planning, rejecting the advice of medical experts that recommended its inclusion on the list of recommended preventive healthcare services for women. The bishops have completely failed to convince Catholics in the pews not to use effective family planning methods, so now they want the president to impose their agenda on Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The president has a choice – listen to the people who elected him or 271 Catholic bishops.”

Published Fri, 02 Dec 2011