President Obama: Women Stood for You. Stand With Us and Remove Abortion Restrictions From Your Budget
This election, I was proud to work with many young people to engage our communities and campuses in the issues that impact us. One issue that engaged many young women in the election work I did this year in Ohio was access to health care, especially pregnancy related services, such as pre- and post-natal care, maternity care, and abortion care. Sixty-five percent of 18-to-24 year-olds believe abortion should be legal all or most of the time, which is higher than any other age group. I am lucky to have employer-funded health insurance that allows me to access a full range of preventive services, including all pregnancy-related services.
Sadly, not all women — even women with insurance — have access to these services. Current law unfairly limits insurance coverage for abortion for women with government-funded insurance. This is because federal dollars are withheld from covering a woman’s abortion except in limited circumstance.
Why “Free Birth Control” is Not Free
Yesterday, August 1, 2012, was a momentous day for women, marking the official beginning of a process of ensuring that millions of women across the United States will—finally—have access to a full range of preventive health care services without a co-pay.
These include a wide range of services and interventions identified by the Institutes of Medicine as essential to women’s health and well-being, including breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence; screening for gestational diabetes; DNA testing for high-risk strains of HPV; counseling regarding sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; screening for HIV; contraceptive methods and counseling; and well-woman visits. Likewise, the ACA also ensures that plans must cover an array of services, vaccinations, and interventions, including those specifically needed by women, infants, children, and adolescents at different points in their lifecycle.
Unquestionably, due to the efforts of religious and political fundamentalists at the state and federal level to deny women access to reproductive health care of virtually every kind, the benefit that has gotten the most media attention is the one involving contraception without a co-pay. Many media outlets (see ABC, NBC, Grist, Shape.com) and some columnists, including our colleague Amanda Marcotte, have described the new birth control benefit as making contraception “free,” most frequently, for example, stating that now women will have access to birth control for free.
This is not the case, and it is misleading—and politically dangerous—to say so.
Is Rick Perry’s Rejection of the Affordable Care Act Political Posturing or a Portent of What’s to Come?
On Monday, Texas Governor Rick Perry publicly rejected two major tenets of the Affordable Care act, saying the state would not participate in the individual state exchanges nor in the federal Medicaid expansion. In a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released yesterday, Perry wrote that the “Orwellian-named PPACA” would “make Texas a mere appendage of the federal government when it comes to health care.”
Texas, which has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country — about one in four Texans currently have no insurance — could receive over a hundred million dollars from the federal government over the next few years, enabling the state to dramatically expand Medicaid overage to low-income adults who are not currently eligible. But, instead, Perry wrote that he believes the Medicaid expansion would “exacerbate the failure of the current system, and would threaten even Texas with financial ruin.”
Texas is already in serious financial trouble, and Perry’s dedication to rejecting any help, or dipping into state reserves, has put it in ever more dire straits.
A Pyrrhic Victory? In ACA Ruling, Roberts Court Takes Big Swipe At Social Safety Net
When the legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act first started taking form, the assertion that Congress did not have the power to regulate the health insurance industry under either the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause was largely seen as an academic argument that had percolated in law schools thanks to a robust presence of the Federalist Society. After all, how could an industry that accounts for approximately 16 percent of economic activity in this country be said not to affect interstate commerce? Of course it can be regulated. Under the even the most cynical view opponents of the Affordable Care Act peddled these arguments simply as political cover for the Court to invalidate the law since the tension between the Obama administration and the conservative wing of the Roberts Court was nearly palpable.
The Court declined the political cover, a fact I think speaks loudly to the rumors that Chief Justice Roberts was concerned about the partisanship and rancor brewing within and around the Court, and the implications of this for his legacy. But the Chief Justice hardly “joined the liberal wing” of the Court in upholding the law. In fact, his decision gives conservatives a potentially significant tool to further attack the social safety net in its limitation of the Commerce Clause. People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do things that would be good for them or good for society. Those failures—joined with the similar failures of others—can readily have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Under the Government’s logic, that authorizes Congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the Government would have them act.
Will Low-Income Women in Texas Find Care Without Planned Parenthood? An Analysis of the System Says the Answer is No
While the State of Texas battles in court for what it says is its right to exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program (WHP) there, the Texas Health and Human Services commission is sending mixed messages to the more than 50,000 women who currently rely on Planned Parenthood for their care through the WHP.
Instead of waiting for the courts to decide whether Planned Parenthood, considered by the state of Texas to be an “abortion affiliate,” can participate in WHP, the state’s HHSC last week sent out a mailer to 100,000 low-income women enrolled in the program advising them that Planned Parenthood could no longer provide WHP services — despite the fact that it has not yet been excluded.
The mailer directed women to the new Texas Women’s Health Program website, which initially excluded Planned Parenthood from its provider listings, which have since been amended to include Planned Parenthood clinics. The site is meant to help WHP enrollees find doctors who will provide reproductive and contraceptive care, and at first glance appears to shore up Governor Rick Perry’s claims that the WHP would do just fine without Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that it provides services to half of the WHP’s members.
Governor Perry’s office and anti-choice lawmakers in the state have rallied behind the claim that “There are more than 2,500 qualified providers in the WHP that operate more than 4,600 locations across the state,” downplaying the significant role Planned Parenthood plays in bringing WHP access to low-income women. What Perry’s office doesn’t mention is that most of those providers are small clinics and individual doctors that aren’t currently equipped to take on the tens of thousands of women who will have to leave Planned Parenthood should the courts rule in favor of the State of Texas.
RH Reality Check set out to test the WHP’s non-Planned Parenthood provider listings over the past week and found that while initial searches of TexasWomensHealth.org turn up what appear to be hundreds of available providers, many of them don’t provide any kind of contraceptive care, don’t take Medicaid Women’s Health Program clients, or are simply misleading duplicate listings.