In a substantial victory for women’s health last week, President Obama approved a new rule that requires most employers to cover birth control in their health insurance plans, without additional cost-sharing. Naturally, Republicans were quick to object on “moral” grounds, calling it “coercive actions to force people to abandon their religious principles.”
Despite the fact that the new rule maintains a religious exemption for religious institutions and non-profits, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act to ensure that all providers can back out of contraception coverage if they claim religious objection. Promoting his bill on the Janet Mefferd Show yesterday, Fortenberry decried Obama’s decision as “a bailout for Planned Parenthood” that is “politically and ideologically driven” because, somehow, birth control “is unrelated to the basic needs of health care”:
FORTENBERRY: Fundamentally, I believe this is a bailout for Planned Parenthood because what it does is provide a number of electives that are now free and it is ideologically and politically driven because it is unrelated to the basic needs of health care, most of which is driven by the onset of chronic illness — that’s about 74 to 75 percent of where the costs come from. So if we were serious about trying to get underneath the underlying factors that are driving up health care costs and really worry about prevention, we’d focus on health and wellness and chronic disease prevention. That just leads me to conclude that this was politically and ideologically driven…It’s a bailout for Planned Parenthood, it’s a direct subsidy to the abortion industry, who is entangled with these services, that’s their political agenda.
As Right Wing Watch notes, contraception actually plays a vital role in a woman’s reproductive health. Increased access to birth control helps reduce the number of abortions because it helps prevent the leading cause of abortions: unwanted pregnancies. But as one study noted, greater access to birth control in the U.S. “has been hampered by barriers including costs, lack of provider training, and misconceptions held by both patients and providers.”
Obama’s decision to ensure greater access is about ensuring women can manage their own reproductive health. It is not a “bailout” of Planned Parenthood, which focuses 97 percent of its work on services for “health and wellness and chronic disease prevention.” The only “politically and ideologically driven” act here is Fortenberry’s outrage.