HHS Mandate: Response from my DEMOCRAT senator, and my response to her
hank you for contacting me regarding birth control and women's health. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
I believe we should all work to prevent and reduce the number of abortions in this country. I support access to birth control, which will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and ultimately reduce abortions. This is an emotional, difficult subject. But if you really believe that reducing abortions is important in this country, which I do, then it doesn't work to keep putting up barriers to women getting birth control. For this reason, I voted against the amendment offered by my colleague, Senator Roy Blunt (Senate Amendment 1520), which would have allowed any employer, health plan sponsor, or insurance company to refuse coverage for their employees for any type of essential health care services -- including birth control, maternity care, prenatal testing, and HIV/AIDS screening -- based solely on an undefined "moral objection."
As you may know, following considerable debate, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reached a compromise so that religiously-affiliated employers will not have to provide birth control if it violates that employer's religious beliefs. This compromise, which I support, ensures that all women with employer-sponsored health plans will have access to free preventive health services, while protecting the religious freedom of religiously-affiliated employers. If a church or religious employer determines that covering birth control would be inconsistent with their organization's beliefs, the insurance company rather than the employer will be required to offer these services directly to women.
Groups on both sides of the debate, including the Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood, have expressed their support of this compromise. Under the new HHS guidelines, no one will be required to use birth control or other preventive care services under any plan. Each woman, pursuant to her own beliefs, will access the services she deems appropriate. However, a woman will not be denied access to health services, like birth control, based on the decision of her employer, instead of retaining for herself the right to choose whether to use birth control or not. The new guidelines also do not eliminate or change existing conscience protections, which I support, that allow doctors and individual healthcare providers to choose whether or not to prescribe or administer birth control in accordance with their own beliefs.
It should be noted that 28 states already require health insurance plans to cover contraceptive services. The compromise guidelines follow in the steps of most states, including Missouri, which have already found a reasonable way to ensure access to preventive health services while also respecting employers' First Amendment right to religious freedom, a fundamental principle on which our nation was founded.
Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.
MY RESPONSE TO HER:
The only point I agree with you on is that we need to reduce abortion. The idea that the path to that is to pay for artificial birth control is so ludicrous that it leaves me speechless. There are people who would love the babies who are aborted, and there are profoundly safer and more effective ways to avoid pregnancy if one truly wishes to do so - such as natural family planning and - dare I say it - the most effective way to avoid pregnancy is to not have sex. As a clinical psychologist, I have seen firsthand the profoundly disturbing effects of our society's current emphasis on sexuality over relationships. Too many of our young people equate the two, because they have no idea how to form an intimate relationship without sexual activity. The age of first sexual activity is going down at an alarming rate, and rather than facing the true problem head-on, we are offering ways for people to simply continue treating sex as if it were as casual as shaking hands, as if it were liberating rather than imprisoning. Relationship education, helping people to understand the role of sexual activity within a loving committed relationship, rather than as a substitute - that is where we need to focus our efforts, not on public financial support for drugs that are damaging and not the least bit preventive - pregnancy, after all, is not a disease but a natural and beautiful part of life. It is not as simple or rapid a solution as simply doling out pills, but it would do much less harm and far more good.
I feel very sad that you are supporting this. No one is saying that women should be restricted from having birth control. We are saying that if a woman is mature enough to engage in sex, she is mature and responsible enough to pay for her own birth control. And no one, no one, should be required to provide financial support for something they believe is morally wrong. It is one more shot at respect for religious rights in this country.
Again, I regret that you are in such strong support of this bill. It has cost you my vote, though I do appreciate your hearing what I have to say with respect.