At Paul Ryan’s speech on poverty yesterday in Ohio, he intended to explain how the Republican party’s platform would help combat poverty in America. But he made it clear that those GOP-endorsed policies don’t involve ensuring that women have access to affordable preventative health care.
As Talking Points Memo flagged, the vice presidential candidate cited the popular Obamacare birth control mandate — which eliminates cost barriers to contraception by requiring employer-based insurance plans to provide contraceptive services without a co-pay — as an example of a “threat” to the poor Americans who rely on assistance from government safety nets and religious charities:
Nothing undermines the essential and honorable work these groups do quite like the abuse of government power. Take what happened this past January, when the Department of Health and Human Services issued new rules requiring Catholic hospitals, charities and universities to violate their deepest principles. Never mind your own conscience, they were basically told –- from now on you’re going to do things the government’s way.
This mandate isn’t just a threat to religious charities. It’s a threat to all those who turn to them in times of need. In the name of strengthening our safety net, this mandate and others will weaken it.
But rather than existing as a “threat” to the low-income women who may need to turn to religious charities “in times of need,” Obamacare actually guarantees that those women will not have to pay up to thousands of dollars each year for their preventative health care, correcting the previously existing gender imbalance in health care costs. And the contraception mandate does not actually require Catholic-affiliated institutions to directly provide their female employees with any birth control services they object to, since it includes a workaround that allows those religious organizations to shift the costs of contraception coverage onto insurance companies.
Studies predict that the health reform law’s birth control policy will almost certainly lower abortion rates, since removing the cost barriers to contraception encourages low-income women to choose longer-lasting, more effective forms of birth control that lower their risk for unintended pregnancy. And women themselves report that they value access to birth control because it helps them achieve economic autonomy for themselves — giving them the ability to finish a degree, keep a job, or support their family — when they know they cannot afford the cost of another child. In Paul Ryan’s mind, however, the social safety net is weakened by fewer abortions and enhanced economic mobility.