The Medical Facts About Birth Control and Hobby Lobby—From an OB/GYN

Source: New Republic

Author: Jen Gunter

If you’ve read the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby or the reaction to it, then you know what sparked the lawsuit. The Affordable Care Act says that employer-provided insurance must include essential health benefits, including all medically authorized forms of contraception. The owners of Hobby Lobby objected to this requirement, because they believe that four common forms of birth controltwo versions of the “morning-after pill” and two kinds of intrauterine devices (IUDs)are “abortifacients.” In other words, the owners of Hobby Lobby think these contraceptives end pregnancies rather than prevent them. And they believe that is tantamount to ending a life.

The claim, which you can find on virtually any conservative website, has been making the rounds for a long time. It’s stuck because the science on how these particular drugs and devices work wasn’t that great. But recent advances in medical diagnostics and some ingenious studies have changed that. We know a lot more about how the contraceptives work. We can be very confident that three of the four contraceptives do not lead to abortion, even using the conservative definition of when life begins, and we can be almost (although not quite) as sure that the fourth does not, either.

There are essentially six ways to prevent pregnancy:

  1. Make the cervical mucus inhospitable (sperm can’t get to the egg)
  2. Inhibit ovulation (prevent the release of an egg)
  3. Affect fertilization (the ability of the sperm to meet up with and/or penetrate the egg).
  4. Affect the fertilized egg (prevent implantation)
  5. Create an inhospitable uterine environment (prevent implantation)
  6. Affect the implanted embryo

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As far as the medical establishment is concerned, pregnancy doesn’t begin until implantation. (In fact, 80 percent of fertilized eggs never implant.) So under this “medical” definition of pregnancy, only method #6that is, doing something to the implanted embryowould constitute a form of abortion. But religious conservatives hold that pregnancy and life itself begin at the moment an egg is fertilized. Under the “religious” definition of pregnancy, methods 4, 5 and 6 would all constitute forms of abortion.

What does that mean for the four types of contraception at issue in the Hobby Lobby case? Let’s consider each one.

Birth Control or "Abortifacient"?

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Plan B, which is one form of the morning-after pill, clearly wouldn’t. It works by inhibiting ovulation when given during a specific 48 hour window of the cycle. It has no other method of action. This is undisputed scientific fact. (Plan B is one of the best studied of all the methods of contraception).

Ella (the manufacturer uses a lower case “e”) is another version of the morning-after pill. It too works by inhibiting ovulation, only it is better at it than Plan B. The 30 mg of ulipristal in ella has no effect on sperm quality, a fertilized egg, or the lining of the uterus. Higher doses affect the uterine lining, potentially creating a hostile environment that could stop a fertilized egg from implanting. But a 30 mg dose has the same impact on uterine lining as a placeboin other words, it has no effect. The only gray area is if a woman were to take ella not realizing that she is already a few weeks pregnant (an unrecognized pregnancy). The impact of ella in early pregnancy is currently unknown.

Mirena, one of the IUDs, changes cervical mucus. It also inhibits ovulation for a small percentage of women in the first year of use, but that is unlikely a major method of action. The Mirena IUD does thin the lining of the uterus, but there is no evidence to suggest this impacts implantation of a fertilized egg.

That leaves the ParaGard, which is a copper IUD. The copper in the device damages sperm and eggs, affects how the sperm and egg travel to meet, and may affect implantation. Some very complex studies suggest that a very small percentage of cycles with a copper IUD (around 1%) may result in a fertilized egg that fails to implant. But, as physician Aaron Carroll noted recently at The Upshot, that’s also the normal failure rate of the IUD. The bulk of the studies do not support a post-fertilization effect.

The only caveat is that if either IUD fails (and while rare, they do fail about 1 percent of the time) the resulting pregnancy has a higher risk of miscarriage.

The facts are summarized in the table above. There is no evidence that Plan B, Ella, or the Mirena cause abortion by any definition. The evidence that the ParaGard might affect implantation for a small percentage of women, thus leading to what some conservatives would call abortion, is thin. But we don’t have the information to discount it completely.

Is that a rational basis for refusing to pay for these contraceptivesand reducing the reach of a health care initiative that provides enormous benefits? Religious conservatives think so. And thanks to the Supreme Court, they will get their way.

Dr. Jen Gunter is an OB/GYN and a pain medicine physician based in California. She blogs at drjengunter.com and authored the book, The Preemie Primer, a guide for parents of premature babies.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118547/facts-about-birth-control-and-hobby-lobby-ob-gyn?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=TNR%20Daily%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=TNR%20Daily%20Zephyr%20with%20LiveIntent%20-%20July%207%2C%202014

Why Do Christian Right-Wingers Pretend America’s Laws Don’t Apply to Them?

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

The situation with Cliven Bundy of Nevada should be a no-brainer for people from both the left and the right. Bundy has been stealing from the taxpayers for years, illegally grazing his cattle on federal lands while refusing to pay for the privilege. Both liberals and conservatives pay taxes, so such blatant theft should outrage everyone equally. Indeed, conservative media claims to take theft from taxpayers very seriously, with Fox News spending so much time on the miniscule problem of food stamp cheats that the number of minutes spent on it has likely long ago exceeded the number of pennies lost to this non-problem.

Bundy has stolen far more than any hypothetical food stamp cheat ever did, but when the government tried to show up and take what was theirs, he met them with armed resistance, pushing him from the “ordinary fraud” category to the “violent criminal” column.

And yet, for some reason, Bundy’s outrageous theft of services from the taxpayers is not being taken seriously by the right-wing press. As Roy Edroso of Village Voice and Eric Boehlert of Media Matters have chronicled, the conservative response to the whole incident has ranged from minimizing the seriousness of the crime to outright cheering Bundy on in his efforts to use the threat of violence to continue stealing from the taxpayers.

It’s tempting to write this reaction off as a matter of idiocy married to identity politics. Bundy is a white guy in a cowboy hat wielding guns, which reads as “one of us” to many on the right, so they refuse to accept that he’s a bad guy no matter how much he threatens violence against federal officers simply for enforcing a law that applies to everyone. And no doubt that is part of what’s going on here. But really, what’s going on runs deeper than a knee-jerk desire on the part of the right to believe every white guy in a cowboy hat is a good guy. This is the logical extension of a push that’s grown in recent years from conservatives to argue that they, and only they, have special rights to simply disregard any law they don’t want to follow. And unfortunately that’s an argument that may be making headway this year in the Supreme Court.

The past couple of years have seen a surge in conservatives demanding special rights to disobey universally applicable federal laws on the grounds that they don’t believe in them. This argument has largely been treated favorably by right-wing media that would definitely not extend that courtesy to anyone else. The Hobby Lobby case is simply the most prominent. To recap,Hobby Lobby is arguing before the Supreme Court that because they don’t believe certain forms of contraception are allowed by their god, they shouldn’t be required to meet federal minimum standards requiring that contraception for healthcare plans offered to employees as part of their compensation package, even if the employees don’t believe in a birth control-hating god.

It’s alarming to think that Hobby Lobby is arguing that anyone should be able to ignore any law they want just by stating they don’t “believe” in it, but reading between the lines of their lawyer Paul Clemente’s arguments before the Supreme Court, it’s clear they think this right to exempt yourself from federal regulations should be exclusive to Christian conservatives.

When Justices Kagan and Sotomayor pressed Clemente to explain how being able to opt out of the contraception mandate wouldn’t lead to being able to opt out of offering insurance that covers vaccines or blood transfusions, Clemente waved their concerns off, saying that contraception was “so religiously sensitive, so fraught with religious controversy” in a way those other things aren’t. But, of course, there are religious groups that do think vaccines or blood transfusions are just as “fraught” as contraception, if not more so. The only difference is those groups don’t have the backing of the Christian right. Even without stating so explicitly, therefore, Clemente’s arguments rested on the assumption that the opt-out opportunities he’s pushing for would be for Christian conservatives and only them. The rest of you can go hang.

Similar logic was in play with the push in various states to pass laws giving rights to businesses to discriminate against customers or employees on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, as long as they ascribed their desire to do so on the grounds of “sincere religious belief.” Being allowed a special exemption to universally applicable laws doesn’t get any more blatant than that. There wasn’t even an attempt at propping up the illusion of fairness by, say, allowing gay or  female business owners to discriminate against religious bigots. Being a religious conservatives was the only way to be eligible for this special privilege of treating customers and employees like dirt if you want to.

While that spate of bills was defeated after public outcry, the narrative that conservatives have a special right—privilege, really—that no one else should have to defy any laws they happen not to like had rooted itself into right-wing media, which enthusiastically championed the idea that conservatives should be able to opt out of all sorts of laws as long as they wielded “religious belief” as an excuse.

Cliven Bundy doesn’t use religion as his excuse, but he still insists that since he doesn’t believe in the “United States government as even existing,” then he shouldn’t have to follow its laws. It’s a logical extension of the anti-gay and anti-contraception “opt out” arguments, rooted as it is in a belief that conservatives have a unique claim to simply reject any laws they don’t want to follow, even as they, like Bundy, take advantage of the amenities of citizenship.

No wonder conservative media is so warm to the guy. To be clear, none of these actions should be confused with civil disobedience, though some have tried. Civil disobedience is about changing unjust laws, not trying to get a special exception from the law for you and people like you. The only reason right-wing media is giving sympathetic coverage to Bundy is that he’s identifiable as a conservative and therefore his desire to make money off the backs of taxpayers without paying his fair share gets sympathetic treatment. But if he was black or female and got away with even a dollar more food stamps than he was owed, he would be treated like public enemy #1 by Fox News. Being able to shrug off laws you don’t like is a privilege reserved for the few in the world of conservative media.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of “It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.” 

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-do-christian-right-wingers-pretend-americas-laws-dont-apply-them?utm_source=Amanda+Marcotte%27s+Subscribers&utm_campaign=3c380f498a-RSS_AUTHOR_EMAIL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f2b9a8ae81-3c380f498a-79824733

An Abbreviated Guide to 5 Arguments Against Contraceptive Coverage in Obamacare

Source: Religious Dispatch

Author: Post by SARAH POSNER

Over 50 friend-of-the court briefs have been filed in favor of the position of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, as the Supreme Court considers whether the religious exercise of these companies and their owners is infringed by the contraceptive coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-two briefs have been filed supporting the government’s position, although numbers certainly should not be taken as an indicator of the strength of either argument or a predictor of the ultimate outcome.

  • A law or regulation violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), if it imposes a “substantial burden” on a person’s religious exercise, unless it furthers a compelling government interest, or if there is a less restrictive way of furthering that interest. In bothHobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the plaintiffs do not object to providing coverage for all contraception, but rather just four types, including the emergency contraceptives ella and Plan B, as well as IUDs, which they insist can act as abortifacients, despite medical evidence to the contrary.Many of the briefs say much more about the politics of abortion, reproductive rights, and religion than they do the finer points of the law — although many do address questions such as whether a corporation can have a religious conscience protected by the law, and whether the contraception coverage requirement burdens that religious exercise. But many of them address political, scientific (or, more accurately, pseudo-scientific), and theological questions that highlight how the politics of these cases have played out in the court of public opinion, and reflect how many advocacy groups and pundits will react to the ruling, however the Court decides the case.In other words, however the Court decides Hobby Lobby, these same arguments will continue to play out in the context of free exercise and establishment law cases, in public health policy, as well as in the drafting of legislation aimed at, for example, expanding the ability of business owners to discriminate against LGBT people, using religious freedom as an excuse, or restricting access to reproductive health care. They represent the heart of the religious conservative worldview on religion in public life.1. The Upside-Down Health Argument.

    The Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and other related groups have filed a brief charging that contraceptives are actually detrimental to womens’ health, and that the Institutes of Medicine, the group on whose recommendations the rule is based, gets the science all wrong:

    the Government selectively ignored and wholly disregarded a large body of relevant, widely available, scientifically sound, scholarly research. The research surveyed for this Court shows that some of the contraceptive drugs have been classified as carcinogens, and that each of the contraceptive drugs and devices have been shown to significantly increase risks of other serious health conditions, including HIV, stroke and heart attack.

    Just as with claims that abortion causes breast cancer, that simply isn’t true. As the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance notes in its brief supporting the government’s position, “the contraceptive-coverage provision takes an important step forward toward increasing access to treatments that reduce the risk of ovarian and other deadly gynecologic cancers, but the position of the companies and shareholders challenging that provision jeopardizes that access for thousands of women nationwide.”

    Dr. Nancy Stanwood, board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said that hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, the patch, and the ring, “actually decrease the risk of cancers,” including ovarian, uterine, and colon cancers, and “they do not increase the risk of breast cancer.” The scientific community “is very clear on that, and the medical community is very united in that understanding,” she said. She added that IUDs, one of the devices challenged by Hobby Lobby, decrease the risk of uterine cancer.

    Although there has been some suggestion that Depo-Provera might increase the risk of contracting HIV, she said, the World Health Organization did not recommend against Depo-Provera’s use, but rather emphasized the need to combine it with a condom, the only contraceptive method also used for HIV prevention.

    As for heart attack and stroke, Stanwood added, that risk is slightly increased using hormonal methods that contain estrogen, but that the “actual risk is very small,” and smaller than the risk when pregnant. It is “important to put them in context of how high is the risk, and the risk compared to what?” said Stanwood. “It just sounds unfortunate that someone decided to write an amicus brief that contains things that were not in context and were somewhat inflammatory and not based on modern science.”

    2. What “gender inequality?” The mandate is sexist!

    The brief written by the Life Legal Defense Foundation, and joined by the Beverly LaHaye Institute of Concerned Women for America takes issue with the government’s claim that its compelling interest in establishing the contraception coverage requirement is to promote women’s health and gender equity. The biggest headscratcher in their brief is the claim that there is no dichotomy between an intended and unintended pregnancy, and that the government’s goal of preventing unintended pregnancies is therefore somehow misguided. “Some women welcome ‘unintended’ pregnancies, and some ‘intended’ pregnancies end in abortion due to complications or a change in a woman’s social situation,” they write. That’s true, of course, but doesn’t therefore prove that there’s no such thing as an unintended versus intended pregnancy. Ask any woman.

    The brief questions whether getting contraceptives for free will actually result in women . . . using contraceptives: “The Government hypothesizes that women are deterred from obtaining contraceptives because of their cost, and that therefore the Mandate will increase utilization of contraceptives.”

    As the Guttmacher Institute notes in its brief, though, “access to the range of contraceptive methods without cost sharing can dramatically reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy, with profound consequences for women and society.” Also, lest this get lost in the fog of distorted data, “reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy is by far the most widely accepted and effective means of reducing the need for and incidence of abortion.

    LLDF adds the mandate doesn’t act to decrease gender inequality (a term placed in scare quotes in the brief) but actually increases inequality by putting women at risk for the alleged health risks of contraceptives (see item 1, above).

    Religion, LLDF argues, is not the only issue in the case. The mandate, said Dana Cody, LLDF’s president, said in a statement, is “unbelievably irresponsible and sexist.”

    3. Strange bedfellows: Democrats for Life

    While the religious (and mostly Republican) opposition to the contraception mandate has been marshalled as evidence of a Republican war on women in Democratic talking points, the organization Democrats for Life — once thought to be the key to Democratic gains, now representing a nearly extinct breed in Congress — positions itself on Hobby Lobby’s side. In its brief, on which it is joined by former Rep. Bart Stupak, who drew the ire of pro-choice groups during the debate over the ACA, Democrats for Life specifically takes on Hobby Lobby’s opposition to emergency contraception:

    Although the government has made statements that terminating a fertilized embryo before it implants in the uterus is not an abortion, the relevant matter for the claim of conscience under RFRA and the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause is plaintiffs’ belief that a distinct human life begins at fertilization. It is no salve to plaintiffs’ conscience to be told that the government defines abortion differently. Furthermore, plaintiffs have a colorable cause for concern that the drugs and devices to which they object may act to terminate embryos. And even applying the government’s definition, there is evidence that the “emergency contraceptive” Ella may terminate embryos after implantation.

    Once it has maintained that ella is an abortifacient (which it isn’t), DFL then makes the leap that because the conscience objections of anti-abortion doctors, hospitals, and others are protected under laws granting them the right to refuse service, that Hobby Lobby should also have its objection to “abortifacients” recognized. “This case implicates the tradition of protecting conscientious objections to abortion, in that plaintiffs object to devices and drugs that may act to terminate a newly fertilized embryo,” Democrats for Life argues, and since “these objectors believe that a distinct life begins at conception, it is no salve to their conscience to be told that the government defines abortion differently.”

    Although many observers have pointed to courts’ unwillingness to question the authenticity of a RFRA plaintiff’s “sincerely held religious belief,” Mary Briscoe, Chief Judge the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, took a different view in her dissenting opinion in Hobby Lobby.The connection, she wrote, “is not one of religious belief, but rather of purported scientific fact, i.e., how the challenged contraceptives operate to prevent pregnancy. Consequently, rather than being off limits to examination, plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the abortion-causing potential of the challenged drugs are subject not only to examination but evidentiary proof. In short, they must be proven by plaintiffs on the basis of sufficient evidence.”

    4. Be careful what services you ask your plumber to do

    A brief signed by the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Coalition of African American Pastors, the Manhattan Declaration, Instep International, and 38 pastors and theologians, including Rick Warren, argues:

    The Christian doctrine of vocation teaches that all work—whether overtly sacred or ostensibly secular—is spiritual activity, that Christians are called by God to specific occupations and businesses, and that Christians must conduct themselves in their vocations in accordance with their Christian beliefs. A Christian may not simply check his faith at the workplace door. Accordingly, Christian business owners, as a matter of scriptural requirement, are obligated to conduct their business as an expression of their faith and in accordance with the dictates of faith and conscience.

    “This case throws into sharp relief the problems that can arise when the Christian doctrine of work is not properly understood,” Hugh Whelchel, the executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, who signed the brief, said in a statement. “We as Christians cannot compartmentalize our faith from the work we do every day, whether we’re a pastor, a plumber, or business leader. The Bible teaches that all of life is integrated and matters to God. This fundamental doctrine needs to be preached more often in our churches as well as understood in our courts.”

    Daniel Akin, Southeastern’s president, tellsReligion News Services’ Jonathan Merritt:

    “I am convinced this is a critical issue that if Hobby Lobby loses, a door is open for further infringements on religious liberty and freedom of conscience,” Akin said. “That this is even on the table signals a new day, and not a better one, in matters of religious liberty and matters of faith.

    Ravi Zacharias, told Merritt, “Sadly, over the years, the Christian faith has been targeted by a rabid secularization and evicted from any or all public expression. The encroachment upon our civil liberties is frightening and we ought to take a stand.”

    This argument obviously has wide-ranging implications for church-state separation law.

    5. The “sex and marriage marketplace” as a war on women

    As Merritt notes, all 38 signers of the theologians’ brief were men. Not to worry! The group Women Speak for Themselves, which formed in opposition to the contraception coverage provision, has filed a brief. Written by lawyer Helen Alvaré, who has said that the availability of contraception has led to the “immiseration of women,” the brief explains the group’s opposition to the regulation as “because the Mandate threatens religious freedom and proposes a reductionist and harmful understanding of women’s freedom.”

    Alvaré reprises the “immiseration” theme in the brief, arguing that “even if contraceptives have the indirect beneficial effects HHS identifies, HHS does not indicate the size of these benefits, or whether they outweigh the adverse health outcomes caused by some contraceptives, or the adverse effects of the immiseration of women in a sex and marriage marketplace shaped by contraception.”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/7542/

The Contraception Mandate and Religious Liberty

From: Pew Forum

By: (interview)

“On Feb. 1, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed new rules that would exempt certain religious organizations, including houses of worship, schools and hospitals, from a new mandate to offer free contraception services to women employees. The new regulations would instead require the nonprofits’ health-insurance providers to offer and pay for contraceptive services. The new proposal is the latest step in a controversy that first arose in 2010, with the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The contraception mandate has been the subject of much debate and the object of many lawsuits (read more about public opinion on the birth control insurance mandate). To help explain what today’s announcement might mean for the debate, the Pew Forum asked Professors Ira C. Lupu and Robert Tuttle of The George Washington University Law School to discuss the new rules and the possible outcome of the legal challenges to them.

1. Briefly explain the roots of controversy. How did we get where we are today?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires employers to offer employees health insurance that provides some preventative medical services free of charge. Part of this mandate includes reproductive health services, such as birth control, sterilization and emergency contraception.

Under regulations drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies in 2011, the contraception mandate would not apply to churches or other religious organizations – if their primary purpose is to inculcate religious values and if they primarily serve and primarily employ people of their faith tradition. Under the 2011 rules, houses of worship were clearly exempt, but other religiously affiliated organizations were not exempt because they have purposes other than promoting religion (such as providing education or health care) and they usually serve and employ people of many faiths. HHS gave these groups an extra year to comply with the mandate – meaning that they would have to offer their employees insurance providing the pregnancy prevention services by August 2013.

Many religiously affiliated organizations criticized the new mandate, and some sued the government in federal court. The opponents argued that the requirement violates the guarantees of religious freedom contained in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) of 1993, which bars the government from substantially burdening religious exercise without having a compelling interest for doing so.

Leading the opposition have been Roman Catholic organizations that oppose abortion and the use of artificial birth control. Some Protestant and Jewish groups that oppose abortion and the use of emergency contraceptives also have sued the government to stop the mandate. Some businesses owned and operated by religious people also have sued, arguing that their religious rights are being abridged. All of the opponents of the mandate contend that they should not be forced to pay for health insurance that provides services that conflict with their religious beliefs. Supporters of the mandate counter that a woman’s access to pregnancy prevention services should not depend on which employer they work for. Supporters also argue that hospitals, schools and other nonprofits, as well as businesses, have no right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

In February 2012, President Obama sought to resolve the controversy by proposing a compromise. With respect to religiously affiliated nonprofits that did not qualify for the full exemption, the president proposed that the groups would still need to provide insurance that covered women’s reproductive health, but they would not have to bear any of the financial cost of these services. Instead, in cases where a religious employer objected, the insurance companies that covered the relevant employees would have to bear all of these costs. The compromise did not change the obligations of for-profit businesses.

Many groups that had objected to the original regulations argued that the compromise did not change the situation. Religious organizations would still have to offer their employees insurance that included coverage of reproductive services, they said, and the insurance companies required to pay for these services would find another way to pass along the cost to employers. Furthermore, the details of the president’s proposal were still somewhat uncertain because they had not been fleshed out into regulatory language – until now.

2. Please explain the newly promulgated rules released today by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The newly proposed rules apply to those religious nonprofits, such as schools, hospitals and social service providers, that HHS did not intend to exempt under the original regulations. Under the new regulations, these religious nonprofits may purchase insurance plans for their workforce that do not offer contraception services. If they do so, their insurance provider will be required to enroll the nonprofit’s female employees in a separate policy that only provides contraceptive services. The insurer will be required to provide these services to employees at no cost. In addition, the insurer, rather than the nonprofit, will have to administer the policy and cover its entire cost. For religious nonprofits that self-insure, the proposed rules require that such organizations must select a third-party administrator that would provide contraceptive coverage to female employees.

3. Are the new rules likely to satisfy the nonprofit organizations that have filed suits in federal courts?

From the beginning of this controversy, religiously affiliated nonprofits have objected to being involved in any way in the provision of one or more of these kinds of services to their employees, whether or not the employer directly paid for the services. Some object to all medical forms of contraception; others object only to emergency contraception, which they view as abortion-inducing. But all object to being put in a role where they are helping their employees gain access to such services. In light of these objections, the new rules may not sufficiently relieve these organizations of what they see as “sinful complicity” in the provision of pregnancy prevention services.

4. What is the status of the lawsuits brought by business or for-profit entities against the original Affordable Care Act rules? Could the outcome of these cases affect the lawsuits brought by nonprofit entities?

As of this date, there have been at least a dozen lower court decisions in cases brought by for-profit businesses objecting to the mandate. Other such cases have recently been filed. In a few cases, lower courts have upheld the position of the United States that corporations and other business entities cannot “exercise religion,” the way individuals can. In addition, some courts have ruled that the contraception mandate does not substantially burden religious exercise, and violates neither RFRA nor the Free Exercise Clause.

However, in a larger number of cases, the lower courts have decided that businesses do have the right to bring such challenges and that the mandate does violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Courts in these cases have concluded that requiring businesses to cooperate in the provision of services that the employer views as sinful is a substantial burden, and that the government’s interest in imposing the mandate to provide services is not “compelling.”

The outcome of these cases could affect the cases brought by religious nonprofits. Of course, religiously affiliated nonprofits, organized in part for religious purposes, will not have to overcome any hurdles about whether they can challenge the regulations. But the nonprofits will have claims similar to those of for-profit businesses, even though, under the new rules, the nonprofits will not be bearing the cost of coverage of pregnancy prevention services in the way that for-profit businesses do. But both make the same basic claim: that they are being forced to facilitate what they believe to be sinful activity in direct violation of their religious rights under RFRA and the Constitution.

5. Do you think it is likely that this issue will be taken up by the Supreme Court?

Because the lower courts will inevitably disagree on a number of questions presented by these cases, the Supreme Court is likely to eventually accept one or more of them to resolve those conflicts. In particular, the high court will have to resolve whether for-profit businesses may assert the same claims of religious freedom as individuals and religious nonprofits. It also will need to determine whether the mandate is a substantial burden on the religious exercise of employers of any kind – whether for profit or nonprofit. Finally, if the justices determine that the mandate does constitute such a burden, the court still must decide whether it violates RFRA or the Constitution.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.pewforum.org/Government/The-Contraception-Mandate-and-Religious-Liberty.aspx

Why the War on Birth Control is a Political Disaster for the GOP

from: HuffPost

By: Robert Creamer

From the point of view of a partisan Democrat, I can only think of one thing to say about the Republican Party’s escalating opposition to birth control: go ahead, make our day.

You have to wonder if the political consultants advising the Republican presidential candidates have lost their minds. In the competition for ultra-right wing voters in the Republican primaries, the Romney and Santorum campaigns have completely lost sight of how their positions on birth control appear to the vast majority of Americans – and especially to women – and affect their chances in a general election.

Outside of a very narrow strata of political extremists, birth control is not a controversial subject. At some point in their lives roughly 98% of women – including 98% of Catholic women — have used birth control – either to prevent pregnancy, regulate menstrual cycles and cramps or to address other medical issues.

Last week a PPP poll reported that:

This issue could be potent in this fall’s election. Fully 58 percent of voters say they oppose Republicans in Congress trying to take away the birth control benefit that saves women hundreds of dollars a year, including 56 percent of independents.

And recent Pew Poll says only 8% of Americans believe that the use of contraceptives is “immoral.”

Democracy Corps published a polling memo last Thursday that said in part:

…one of the most important factors powering Obama’s gains against likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney has been the President’s improving numbers among unmarried women, a key pillar of the present and future Democratic coalition.

Among this group, Obama now leads Romney by 65-30 — and there’s been a net 18-point swing towards the President among them…

The issue of access to birth control is very important among this group.

In addition, the memo went on to say that the battle over contraception could be another “Terri Schiavo moment” where the knee jerk reaction of right wing culture warriors runs afoul of Americans’ desire not to have government interfering with their most private personal decisions.

And the numbers understate another important factor – intensity. Many women voters in particular feel very intensely about the birth control issue. It’s not just another issue – it’s about their own control of the most personal aspects of their lives.

Notwithstanding these facts, Mitt Romney has come out squarely in favor of the “personhood” amendment that was soundly defeated in Mississippi – probably the most conservative state in the nation. That amendment would essentially ban most forms of hormonal birth control, like the Pill and IUD, that millions of women – and their spouses – rely upon to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Santorum, in addition to his support of the “personhood” amendment, actually argues that contraception of any sort is immoral.

Both Romney and Santorum have attacked the Obama Administration’s rule that requires insurance companies to make birth control available to all women with no co-payment no matter where they work.

Their positions are so far outside the political mainstream that they might as well be on the former planet Pluto.

And these are not positions that are peripherally related to voters’ opinions of candidates for office. For many swing voters, the GOP’s extremist positions on birth control could very well be dispositive determinants of their votes next November.

First, for a large number of women voters, their positions communicate two very important things:

    • They aren’t on my side;
  • They don’t understand my life.

And the spectacle of Congressman’s Dayrl Issa’s hearing on contraception that featured six male witnesses – and not one woman – generated an iconic moment that Democrats will recycle over and over between now and the fall elections.

Most American women hear these positions and respond that the guys who control the Republican Party simply don’t get it. And many add that if men could get pregnant, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

The sense that the Republican candidates are out of touch and unable to empathize with the lives of ordinary people is especially damaging to Romney, since his lack of empathy has become something of a trademark. Just ask his late dog Seamus who was famously forced to ride on top of his car for twelve hours on a family trip.

Second, Romney’s current position on birth control reinforces the correct perception that he has no core values whatsoever – and is willing to say anything to get elected. Fact is that when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, the state had a provision virtually identical to the Federal Rule on the availability of contraceptives that he now opposes.

Santorum, on the other hand is no flip-flopper on the issue. He has been opposed to birth control his entire career – and that provides a powerful symbol of the fact that he is a right wing extremist that is completely out of step with the views of most ordinary Americans.

Third, many Americans are wondering what in the world the Republicans are doing talking about social issues like birth control, when they ought to be talking about how they intend to create jobs.

The longer they focus on birth control, the more they will highlight the fact that the while their victories in the 2010 midterms were all about popular unhappiness with the economy – the Republican majority in the House has instead focused its energy on social issues like cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood or restricting access to birth control. Normal people look at that kind of agenda and ask: “What are they thinking?”

Finally, the birth control discussion is not just damaging the two front-running presidential contenders. It is tarnishing the entire GOP brand. That will damage the chances of Republican candidates for Congress, state and local office as well.

Initially, the GOP began its jihad against birth control reasoning that the Administration’s contraception rule could prove their outrageous claim that Obama and the Democrats are conducting a “war against religion.”

Of course, someone might remind the right that it is the Democrats that are defending the core ethical principal of Christianity, Judaism, Islam – and most other major religions – to love your neighbor. In fact, President Obama intends to frame the entire Presidential campaign as a choice between a society where we look out for each other – and have each other’s back – or a society of dog eat dog selfishness where only the strongest can be successful, where the big corporations can exploit everyday Americans, and most people are left on their own to fend for themselves.

In Obama’s State of the Union, he challenged the Republicans to remember that when people go into battle – attempt to accomplish any mission – they are successful if they have each other’s backs – if they are all in this together.

Loving your neighbor is the core ethical principal of Christianity, and of other major religions. It is those who oppose that principle that are conducting the real “war against religion.”

The revised birth control rule that the President promulgated ten days ago, putting the burden to provide contraceptives on insurance companies, not employers, allowed the focus to shift away from the rights of religious institutions and back to the extreme GOP position on birth control where it belongs.

But despite the fact that even the Catholic Hospital Association supports the new compromise regulation, extremist Republicans like Issa just can’t help themselves. They can’t stop themselves from fanning the anti-birth control flames any more than a pyromaniac just can restrain his urge to start fires. And of course the reason is simple. Many members of the current GOP Congressional caucus are in fact ideological extremists. This debate calls up something primal in their inner political consciousness.

This, of course, is not true of Romney, whose political commitments are limited to his own personal success. He has no qualms whatsoever about leveraging companies with debt, bleeding them dry and laying off workers to make himself richer. And he doesn’t think twice about saying whatever he believes will help him win an election.

Problem is, that while his opposition to birth control may help him win Republican primaries, it may make him unelectable in a General Election.

Oh well, maybe after the election is done, he can replenish his coffers by suing some of his consultants for political malpractice.”

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partnersand a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.


Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-creamer/why-the-war-on-birth-cont_b_1288802.html?utm_source=Alert-blogger&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Email%2BNotifications

6 People the Media Should Have Talked to About Birth Control That Aren’t Catholic Men

From: RawStory, via  AlterNet

By:David Ferguson

It has been widely remarked that last week’s discussions about the Affordable Health Care Act’s mandate that insurers provide women with free birth control was a little heavy on men and religious figures and awfully light on women and health care experts.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) held a hearing on Capitol Hill about the issue, but declined to feature any women on the panel or hear testimony from female witnesses, prompting a walk-out by Reps. Carolyn Mahoney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

We at Raw Story have some suggestions for people the news media might reach out to next time questions of women and their access to contraception arise.

1. Dr. Regina Benjamin (Surgeon General of the U.S.)

Who better to discuss an important public health issue than the most powerful public health official in the country? She, unlike most of the people interviewed on the topic, is a doctor and a woman, and has an extensive background in rural health care and understands the difficulties faced by women and families in need.

2. Working moms

One of the revolutionary aspects of the arrival of the birth control pill was that it allowed women to work outside the home. Within the last half-century our society has changed from one where one parent, the mother, was expected to remain at home engaged in child care and homemaking, into a society where stay-at-home parenting is the exception, not the norm. Some doctors and historians would say that the availability of safe and reliable birth control has been an integral part of that transformation.

3. Sarah Palin

Only because her grasp of the English language is so tenuous and fraught with peril that every time she opens her mouth, whatever cause she is advocating gets set back twenty years. Nobody tosses a word salad with quite the mindless aplomb of half-term ex-Governor Sarah Palin. Let’s not forge ther hilarious mangling of the Paul Revere story.

4. A junkie

It is a sad fact of drug addiction that many female addicts are ultimately forced by their addiction to trade sex for drugs. According to one Vanderbilt University study, approximately 350,000 babies are born already addicted to drugs each year. Many drug addicts spend all of their available resources on their habit, putting tertiary concerns like birth control out of reach. Providing these women with free birth control could save our health care system money in the long run, and simplify the already complicated lives of a vulnerable class of people.

5. Loretta Lynn

Simply on the basis of this great song (The Pill).

6. Kathy Griffin

The actress and comedian has spoken eloquently about her Catholic faith, and has famously gone a few rounds with professional scold Bill Donohue and the “Catholic League” in the past. Pretty much everything that comes out of her mouth is hilarious, regardless, and she’s much less stomach-turning to listen to on topics of sex, marriage, and reproduction than, say, Newt Gingrich.

How about you? Is there anyone you believe got short shrift in our national tug of war over women’s right to manage their own bodies? Let us know in the comments.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154209/6_people_the_media_should_have_talked_to_about_birth_control_that_aren%27t_catholic_men?akid=8277.123424.so6bXI&rd=1&t=8

Bishops Condemn Birth Control Compromise

From: The Daily Beast

“Though they initially didn’t respond very loudly to President Obama’s new birth-control plan, the leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference have released a second statement declaring that the mandate for contraceptive coverage in health-care programs “unacceptable” and insisting it “must be corrected.” While Obama’s new plan doesn’t force religious-affiliated employers to pay for contraceptive coverage—insurers would still be obligated to provide the coverage for free—the bishops said the change isn’t enough. “At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.” The church leaders raised specific concerns about the enforcement for coverage of “sterilization and contraception,” which raised a “grave moral concern.””

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2012/02/11/bishops-condemn-birth-control.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Morning Mix: GOP Won’t Quit Attacking The Pill

From: Care2

By: 

President Obama’s announced “accommodation” of the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act was like chumming the waters for CPAC attendees. Mike Huckabee rallied for solidarity proclaiming “we are all Catholics now!” and Rick Santorum swung hard against science and common sense. Meanwhile Mitt Romney had white supremacists warming up the crowd before his address where he highlighted his “severe” conservatism while Governor of Massachusetts. CPAC is getting so strange I’m feeling wistful for a primary or caucus. Good thing there’s Maine!

Conservatives really believe campaigning against contraception is a winning issue, so much so they’ve already started producing ads targeting pro-choice women on the issue.

Maybe conservatives should check out the latest poll numbers if they’re so sure this is a good move. (N.B.: or Not!  I want this to be our year!)

CPAC may be the last gasp of the Gingrich campaign. The former Speaker of the House painted himself as the “anti-establishment” candidate who is “terrible” at gold.

This is what I’m talking about–CPAC exists in some kind of alternate universe where Gingrich can insist he’s a man of the people and birth control is the issue of the season.  And the sad thing is, I think it’s only going to get crazier the closer we get to the convention”

Read more: 

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-gop-wont-quit-attacking-the-pill.html#ixzz1m5hvV7H7

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see: http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-gop-wont-quit-attacking-the-pill.html

no-birth-control-part-II-Romney-wants-to-eliminate-title-X

From:care2

“Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has recently come out in favor of “Personhood,” the idea of granting full legal rights to fertilized eggs, a plan that would not only eliminate abortion but could outlaw most forms of contraception, too.

But that’s not Romney’s only attack on birth control.  Numerous presidential candidates agreed to sign the Susan B. Anthony pledge, one of the platforms of which was to agree to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest birth control and reproductive health provider.

Romney did not sign the pledge.  However, now he’s going even further than the anti-choice group itself has tried to reach.

He wants to eliminate Title X funding all together.

As Sarah Kliff explains: “Created in 1970 during the Nixon years, Title X covers reproductive health services like birth control, STD screenings, and cervical-cancer exams. In 2008, the program reached about 5 million Americans, mostly women. While the program does provide funds to abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, federal law bars the program from covering abortion procedures.”

Romney’s plan to eliminate federal funding for all family planning services can be seen by fiscal conservatives as a sign that he is ready to take a hard line on budget cutting, and sends a subtle message to the social conservatives so wary of him that he can be the champion for ending abortion, and even support for birth control.

The House Republicans desperately tried to eliminate funding in the first government shutdown battle.  It was only the president’s refusal to allow that to occur that saved the program.  If that president were Mitt Romney, that would be a very different story.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.care2.com/causes/no-birth-control-part-ii-romney-wants-to-eliminate-title-x.html

Political Reporters Start Reading Religious Right Books

N.B.: This is why the First Clause of The First Amendment is more important than ever!

 

From RD, by Sarah Posner

“There’s a somewhat refreshing development taking place in political reporting. Not only reporters are noticing that Republican candidates coalesce with religious right leaders, but they are also discovering a crucial truth about the movement: that its followers aren’t just motivated by opposition to abortion and LGBT rights. They are motivated by something more fundamental, a reimagined “truth” about what America is (and isn’t) and how a “biblical worldview” should guide politics and policymaking.

This is a good thing, of course, because as Joanna argued this morning, candidates should be asked tough questions about how their beliefs would impact their governing. Michele Bachmann thinks that God is trying to send a message through earthquakes and hurricanes, and that message is not (in her mind) that Republicans should stop obsessing about energy efficient lightbulbs being “tyranny,” or talking about closing down the Environmental Protection Agency.

Twitter lit up this morning after Jonathan Martin’s piece in Politico (“Is Rick Perry Dumb?”) noted that he was reading Charles Stanley’s book, Turning the Tide. Stanley is pastor of megachurch First Baptist Church of Atlanta and one-time Southern Baptist Convention president whose broadcasts through his In Touch ministry are seen and heard on radio and television across the country. Stanley, although widely known, is not without controversy: after years of marital trouble, his wife divorced him in 2000. Despite longstanding SBC denunciation of divorce, Stanley remained as pastor of his church despite an unwritten SBC prohibition on divorced men serving as pastors (the SBC prohibits ordination of women, but this resolution is not binding on local churches, who can decide otherwise). At the time, a church spokesperson said, “God has positioned Dr. Stanley in a place where his personal pain has validated his ability to minister to all of us.”

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, whose piece on Michele Bachmann brought dominionism to the forefront of the political conversation (even though reporters who cover the religious right have reported on it for years), started tweeting quotes from Stanley’s book, such as “Pray to help leaders ‘reaffirm our Christian heritage and reestablish Your biblical precepts as the basis of American society and law.'” He also observed, “Can’t remember another campaign bragging that candidate was reading a book that asked people to pray for conversion of all Jews and Muslims.”Perhaps Lizza can’t remember, and perhaps a campaign didn’t explicitly brag about reading a particular book, but considering that conversion of non-believers is a standard evangelical imperative, it shouldn’t be too terribly surprising that an evangelical candidate would brag about reading a book that contained such an exhortation. And as I’ve argued before, creating candidates like Perry (or Bachmann) has been years in the making. Doug Wead, in his 1985 memo to George H.W. Bush, named Stanley as one of the leading religious leaders in America whose support the candidate should cultivate. Stanley, then the president of the SBC, “is said to be ‘intrigued’ by the [Pat] Robertson candidacy but ‘leaning to George Bush.'” Oh, yeah, that guy, Pat Robertson! Remember when he ran for president?Wead continued: Dr. Stanley is the key to building relationships with the seven or eight pastors of the largest SBC churches. Like Stanley, these pastors will probably endorse someone for president. They will influence others through the use of their mailing lists, radio and television programs, and printed materials which get across their message without violating their government awarded 501 c3 status. They will even have voter registration booths in their church lobbies which will be open after a rather pointed sermon, “I don’t want to influence how you vote but . . . .” Let’s not forget how a mere four years ago Mike Huckabee (himself an SBC pastor considered a moderate by some in his denomination!) gave a Christmas sermon at John Hagee‘s church,said that the Constitution should be amended to conform with “God’s standards,” said that allowing “seculars” to govern America would lead to Nazism, rallied a church in New Hampshire to enlist in “God’s army” to be “soldiers for Christ,” appeared to be the anointed one of some religious right godfathers, and drew the wrath of the late Robert Novak, no less, because of his ties to Christian Reconstructionism. Or that John McCain wrapped his arms around Rod Parsley and Hagee, or that even Rudy Giuliani sought and gained Robertson’s blessing. And that was just ’08; it’s all been going on much longer than that.  While GOP candidates’ cultivation of conservative evangelicals is not a surprise, it is a good thing that it’s being discussed more. Perhaps, if nothing else, it will put the lid on the inevitable “is the religious right dead?” piece.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/5028/