Last week, NCJW activists spoke out in huge numbers through emails, letters to the editor, social media — using just about every avenue available — to let Susan G. Komen for the Cure know that defunding Planned Parenthood was wrong. Within a matter of days, Komen reversed their policy and said that they would not disqualify Planned Parenthood for funding for critical breast cancer screenings and care.
Believe me — quick victories like this are few and far between! But my 30 years with NCJW has taught me that whenever we have had a victory, it has been the result of the same unified, persistent action as the one directed at Komen last week.
Just a few weeks earlier, we had another big win! NCJW’s efforts — emails, letters to the editor, face-to-face meetings with decision makers, testimony, social media, and so on — paid off with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). On January 20, they announced that under the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law, birth control will be covered in all new insurance plans like all other critical preventive health services without out-of-pocket costs to the consumer. Furthermore, all employers must abide by this policy (except for pervasively religious employers like houses of worship).
The new rule made it clear: all women should have access to contraception regardless of where they work — a policy that is supported by the vast majority of people in this country regardless of their religion. This should come as no surprise as 98% of American women have used contraceptives at some point in their lives. Despite this broad support, the administration’s new policy is under attack.
Make no mistake, some of the very same groups who put pressure on Komen to defund Planned Parenthood are taking aim at birth control. They are using every means at their disposal to restrict access to birth control, seeking to impose their religious beliefs on all of us. Our strong, unified voices are needed now more than ever in support of the Administration’s move to make birth control accessible to all women as a basic health care service.
The HHS decision has been decried by the Catholic Bishops and even some Jewish organizations like the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel who believe that their institutional religious liberty is being denied. They want religiously affiliated hospitals, universities, and organizations to be allowed to deny their employees birth control coverage — even those employees who don’t share their bosses’ religious beliefs. This minority view is crowding out the voices of the majority who support contraception.
NCJW is uniting with 21 other faith groups and speaking out on our belief in individual religious liberty and that religious doctrine has no place does in health care policy. Contraception helps women stay healthy and plan for healthy pregnancies. It is basic health care that all women and men should be able to access independent of their employers’ religious beliefs.
Years from now, I believe that we will look back on this moment in history as the pivotal moment for family planning in this country. Will we let a minority make birth control as controversial as abortion or will we raise our voices to assert that birth control is basic health care and must not be denied? It’s up to us!