In order to keep the government funded past September 30 and avert an impending shutdown, House Republicans are demanding to delay Obamacare for one year. But that’s not all they’re asking for. The GOP proposal that the House passed on Saturday night also includes a provision that directly attacks women’s access to affordable contraceptive services.
House Republicans approved a continuing resolution that includes a “conscience clause” — a policy that would allow employers and insurers to opt out of providing coverage for women’s preventative care, like birth control, for any moral or religious reason. It’s a direct attack on Obamacare’s birth control benefit, which requires employers to offer this type of preventative care at no additional cost to their female workers.
Obamacare’s contraceptive provision has been in place for a little over a year, and it already contains an exemption for religious employers. So far, an estimated 27 million women are benefiting from this aspect of the health reform law. Before that provision took effect, the high cost of contraception was prohibitive for many women. Many women reported that they tried to save money on their out-of-pocket costs by failing to take their birth control as directed or switching to a less effective method.
In a press release issued over the weekend, Planned Parenthood called the GOP proposal “a remarkably desperate, misguided, and extreme attack on women’s health.”
And in an op-ed published on Monday, Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, pointed out that House Republicans are simply reviving their tired War on Women. “It’s all too familiar. Backed into a political corner, House Republicans go after women’s access to health care,” Richards wrote. “It’s like they can’t help themselves. A small group of mostly male politicians are seemingly obsessed with these issues, and can’t seem to stay out of women’s personal medical care.”
This certainly isn’t the first time that House Republicans have hijacked the budget process to attack women’s access to health care. During a similar fight to avert a government shutdown in 2011, congressional Republicans tried to force through a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. And just earlier this year, to avert a government shutdown in March, a group of House Republicans wanted to add a provision to roll back Obamacare’s birth control provision to their version of the funding bill. They didn’t get their way that time, but they’ve gotten another chance this week.
GOP lawmakers’ latest push to deny women affordable access to birth control comes less than a week after this year’s World Contraception Day, an international initiative to highlight the importance of ensuring young people’s access to family planning services.