Commentary Magazine


Topic: contraceptives

G’town Keeping Policy on Birth Control

Georgetown University’s student insurance program came under fire a few months ago during an unofficial congressional hearing after student and activist Sandra Fluke criticized its lack of birth control coverage. Since Fluke’s testimony, the university has been under mounting pressure to change its birth control coverage policy immediately. But today, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia confirmed in a letter to students that the university will not change its policy until it’s required to by law:

As you know, like most universities, Georgetown requires that students have health insurance. Students are not required to purchase their health insurance through Georgetown University and are free to acquire health insurance through a third party. The student plan offered by Georgetown is consistent with our Catholic and Jesuit identity and does not cover prescription contraceptives for birth control. It does provide coverage for these prescriptions for students who require them for health reasons unrelated to birth control, as determined by a physician.

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Georgetown University’s student insurance program came under fire a few months ago during an unofficial congressional hearing after student and activist Sandra Fluke criticized its lack of birth control coverage. Since Fluke’s testimony, the university has been under mounting pressure to change its birth control coverage policy immediately. But today, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia confirmed in a letter to students that the university will not change its policy until it’s required to by law:

As you know, like most universities, Georgetown requires that students have health insurance. Students are not required to purchase their health insurance through Georgetown University and are free to acquire health insurance through a third party. The student plan offered by Georgetown is consistent with our Catholic and Jesuit identity and does not cover prescription contraceptives for birth control. It does provide coverage for these prescriptions for students who require them for health reasons unrelated to birth control, as determined by a physician.

While the letter doesn’t mention Fluke directly, DeGioia clearly responds to several of her claims. In her testimony, Fluke argued that contraception coverage is necessary for health care reasons, and recounted a story about one fellow student who was allegedly forced to have an ovary removed after the university health insurance refused to cover the contraception that would have treated her polycystic disorder. DeGioia reiterated that Georgetown’s health insurance covers contraception as long as it is for medical reasons unrelated to birth control.

DeGioia also pointed out that students aren’t required to purchase the Georgetown health insurance and have the option to buy outside plans instead.

While DeGioia’s letter didn’t indicate that the university would take a public stance against President Obama’s rule requiring religious institutions to provide birth control coverage in their insurance plans, he did say he would be monitoring related developments. The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops has called for protests of the law this summer.

Full letter from President DeGioia below:

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

I write to you regarding Georgetown’s health insurance and contraceptive coverage in our plans.  Many members of our community have expressed different perspectives on this issue.  I am grateful for the respectful ways in which you have shared your opinions.

As you know, like most universities, Georgetown requires that students have health insurance. Students are not required to purchase their health insurance through Georgetown University and are free to acquire health insurance through a third party. The student plan offered by Georgetown is consistent with our Catholic and Jesuit identity and does not cover prescription contraceptives for birth control.  It does provide coverage for these prescriptions for students who require them for health reasons unrelated to birth control, as determined by a physician.

After thoughtful and careful consideration, we will continue our current practice for contraceptive coverage in our student health insurance for the coming year, as allowed for under the current rules issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

There will also be no change to the University’s approach to contraceptive coverage for employees for 2013.

We will be monitoring further regulatory and judicial developments related to the Affordable Care Act. I hope this is helpful in clarifying a matter of concern to many of you.

You have my very best wishes as we conclude our academic year.

Sincerely,
John J. DeGioia

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Obama’s Approval Rating Among Women Drops 12 Points

Here’s more evidence suggesting that the New York Times “trend” story on how women are bolting from the GOP and flocking to the Obama campaign was complete fantasy. And the latest contradictions come from the New York Times’ own poll:

In the head-to-head matchups, Mr. Obama also maintained much of the advantage he had built in the last year among important constituencies, including women, although he lost some support among women over the past month, even as the debate raged over birth control insurance coverage.

Mr. Obama appears to be retaining much of his gains among important demographic groups, erasing inroads that Republicans made in 2010, especially among women. But his falling approval rating in the last month extended to his handling of both the economy and foreign policy, the poll found.

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Here’s more evidence suggesting that the New York Times “trend” story on how women are bolting from the GOP and flocking to the Obama campaign was complete fantasy. And the latest contradictions come from the New York Times’ own poll:

In the head-to-head matchups, Mr. Obama also maintained much of the advantage he had built in the last year among important constituencies, including women, although he lost some support among women over the past month, even as the debate raged over birth control insurance coverage.

Mr. Obama appears to be retaining much of his gains among important demographic groups, erasing inroads that Republicans made in 2010, especially among women. But his falling approval rating in the last month extended to his handling of both the economy and foreign policy, the poll found.

“He lost some support among women” is apparently the New York Times’ nice way of saying Obama’s approval rating dropped 12 points among women during the past month, from 53 percent to 41 percent. Needless to say, the Democratic Party’s “war on women” rhetoric doesn’t seem to be working:

In recent weeks, there has been much debate over the government’s role in guaranteeing insurance coverage for contraception, including for those who work for religious organizations. The poll found that women were split as to whether health insurance plans should cover the costs of birth control and whether employers with religious objections should be able to opt out.

Poll respondents said 51 percent to 40 percent that companies should be allowed to opt out for religious/moral reasons. Women said companies should be allowed to opt out, 46 percent to 44 percent.

Those numbers are even more favorable to conservatives when you specifically ask whether religiously-affiliated employers, like schools and hospitals, should be forced to provide birth control coverage. Poll respondents said these institutions should be allowed to opt out, 57 percent to 36 percent. Women said these institutions should be allowed to opt out, 53 percent to 38 percent.

It sounds like the Obama administration has seriously miscalculated its “war on women” strategy. Either women are in favor of religious opt-out rules, as the Times poll suggests (and in that case, are possibly offended by the way the Obama administration has handled the controversy); or, women care so little about this issue that they haven’t even been paying close attention to the debate. Even if the latter is true, that doesn’t mean this strategy was cost-free. According to the Times poll, Obama has further alienated religious voters, and received no political gain with women in exchange. His support has dropped to 37 percent with Catholics, 26 percent with white Protestants and 18 percent with white Evangelical Christians.

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Drug Companies Profit From Mandate

It is amazing how quickly “free birth control” became the next civil rights issue. Until recently, I never noticed that Catholic employers refusing to cover birth control costs had created a public crisis, forcing women across the country to pay a staggering $9 a month for the Pill.

Which is of course because this isn’t a crisis, it’s a fake controversy. There’s no vital public interest in forcing religious employers to provide insurance for contraceptives, and you don’t have to be anti-birth control to think that. Though it does help to have the bare-minimum of tolerance for other people’s personal beliefs.

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It is amazing how quickly “free birth control” became the next civil rights issue. Until recently, I never noticed that Catholic employers refusing to cover birth control costs had created a public crisis, forcing women across the country to pay a staggering $9 a month for the Pill.

Which is of course because this isn’t a crisis, it’s a fake controversy. There’s no vital public interest in forcing religious employers to provide insurance for contraceptives, and you don’t have to be anti-birth control to think that. Though it does help to have the bare-minimum of tolerance for other people’s personal beliefs.

Of course, just because the birth control insurance mandate has near-negligible benefits for women doesn’t mean nobody’s profiting off this. At The Atlantic, Avik S. A. Roy explains why drug companies have the most to gain from the rule:

Under the current system, drug companies have an incentive to compete on price. If you have health insurance that covers birth control today, your insurer is likely to charge you a higher co-pay for expensive, “branded” versions of birth control over cheaper, generic ones. If you don’t have health insurance, and you’re buying the Pill directly from the pharmacy at Wal-Mart, you have even more incentive to shop on price.

Under the new mandate, this price incentive disappears. Insurers will be required to pay for any and all oral contraceptives, without charging a co-pay, co-insurance, or a deductible. This “first dollar coverage” of oral contraception kills the incentive to shop based on price.

If history is any guide, this significant change will drive up the price of oral contraception. Today, Tri-Sprintec costs $9 a month. In 2020, don’t be surprised if it costs $30.

We already knew ObamaCare was a goldmine for drug companies, which is why the president has gotten so much support from the pharmaceutical industry. Now we know what he was willing to sell out in order to get it: the rights of conscience for religious employers.

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Santorum’s Effort to Rewrite His Words

I just wanted to add an additional thought to what Alana wrote regarding Senator Rick Santorum. It isn’t simply that he spoke about his private beliefs on contraception; it’s that he publicly and proudly declared he would, as president, hold forth on the subject (see here for more).

It was Santorum, not the liberal media, who said, “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” It was Santorum, not MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who said, “I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These have profound impact on the health of our society.”

So for Santorum, a man for whom I have respect, to say it’s a “bogus issue,” that to bring it up is “just absurd” and is an example of “gotcha politics,” just isn’t right.

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I just wanted to add an additional thought to what Alana wrote regarding Senator Rick Santorum. It isn’t simply that he spoke about his private beliefs on contraception; it’s that he publicly and proudly declared he would, as president, hold forth on the subject (see here for more).

It was Santorum, not the liberal media, who said, “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” It was Santorum, not MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who said, “I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These have profound impact on the health of our society.”

So for Santorum, a man for whom I have respect, to say it’s a “bogus issue,” that to bring it up is “just absurd” and is an example of “gotcha politics,” just isn’t right.

I suspect I know what happened. When Santorum made his comments in October 2011, he was an asterisk in the polls, he was trying to gain traction with social conservatives in Iowa, and he views himself as more intrepid than the other GOP candidates. So he decided to separate himself from his competitors.

He succeeded. He went out of his way to find this issue. And oh, how he did. But now he has to live with his words; and blaming others isn’t a fair representation of reality.

I can sympathize with Santorum wanting to put this issue to rest. He is, in fact, a “full spectrum” conservative – knowledgeable, informed, and conversant on the issues. But there’s a better way to put the topic to rest than to attempt to rewrite history. Why not simply say he made a mistake, that his formulation was awkward and misguided, he regrets it, and move on?

 

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Santorum Should Do This Every Time He’s Asked About Birth Control

BuzzFeed posted this audio clip today under the headline “Santorum Loses His Cool During Interview With Cincinnati Radio Station.” I’m not sure what exactly they’re referring to, because honestly Santorum stays pretty even-keeled throughout the interview. He also does what he should be doing every time he’s asked about his views on birth control: call it out as a ridiculous, media-manufactured issue, and pivot back to attacking President Obama’s record.

Santorum: It’s a bogus issue. It’s just absurd. It’s a legal product, it should remain a legal product. It’s up to people to decide what to do. This is what the national media does. They don’t want us to be able to talk about Barack Obama’s pathetic record on the economy and jobs, so they bring up issues…This is my opinion on my personal faith, and they’re all of a sudden saying ‘Well, he must want to do this with everyone else.’ Well that’s just crazy. This is what the media does. They try to change the subject. I’m not going to let them. We’re going to talk about creating jobs, we’re going to talk about reducing energy prices, and we’re going to focus on what’s important to Americans, as opposed to what the media wants to do, which is to play gotcha politics.

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BuzzFeed posted this audio clip today under the headline “Santorum Loses His Cool During Interview With Cincinnati Radio Station.” I’m not sure what exactly they’re referring to, because honestly Santorum stays pretty even-keeled throughout the interview. He also does what he should be doing every time he’s asked about his views on birth control: call it out as a ridiculous, media-manufactured issue, and pivot back to attacking President Obama’s record.

Santorum: It’s a bogus issue. It’s just absurd. It’s a legal product, it should remain a legal product. It’s up to people to decide what to do. This is what the national media does. They don’t want us to be able to talk about Barack Obama’s pathetic record on the economy and jobs, so they bring up issues…This is my opinion on my personal faith, and they’re all of a sudden saying ‘Well, he must want to do this with everyone else.’ Well that’s just crazy. This is what the media does. They try to change the subject. I’m not going to let them. We’re going to talk about creating jobs, we’re going to talk about reducing energy prices, and we’re going to focus on what’s important to Americans, as opposed to what the media wants to do, which is to play gotcha politics.

Exactly. This is the position Santorum has maintained since the birth control issue was first raised in the race: he’s personally opposed to it, he wouldn’t use it in his own life, but he has no interest in regulating it in the lives of other people and believes birth control should remain a legal product. The media continues to try to divert attention away from economic issues by bringing up the much more sensational contraception debate, and Santorum needs to take a cue from the Newt Gingrich media relations playbook and simply refuse to engage on the subject.

On the other hand, as ridiculous as the media’s obsession with the birth control issue is, it’s hard to have a ton of sympathy for Santorum here. He’s the main reason this has become a campaign issue. If he doesn’t want the government to crack down on birth control use, then the public really never had any need to know his own personal opinions on it. Santorum was the one who shared this part of his private life by writing and speaking about it openly. Notice that Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich aren’t constantly pressed about their own personal views on contraception – that’s not a coincidence. They didn’t bring it up, and Santorum did.

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Obama Campaign’s Disgraceful Birth Control Fear-Mongering

At the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney flags an offensively dishonest attack on opponents of the contraception insurance mandate from the Obama campaign’s website. The campaign published a fake birth control “permission slip” that would supposedly be filled out by an employee and employer. It reads:

Employer Authorization for Contraception

I have discussed the employee’s contraceptive options with her, and I verify that her use of these methods (IS/IS NOT) in agreement with my personal beliefs. The employee (DOES/DOES NOT) have my permission to access birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or any other types of contraception.

This decision is only valid until the next evaluation of the employee’s contraception plans.

__________________

Employer Signature

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At the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney flags an offensively dishonest attack on opponents of the contraception insurance mandate from the Obama campaign’s website. The campaign published a fake birth control “permission slip” that would supposedly be filled out by an employee and employer. It reads:

Employer Authorization for Contraception

I have discussed the employee’s contraceptive options with her, and I verify that her use of these methods (IS/IS NOT) in agreement with my personal beliefs. The employee (DOES/DOES NOT) have my permission to access birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or any other types of contraception.

This decision is only valid until the next evaluation of the employee’s contraception plans.

__________________

Employer Signature

Click over to look at the actual photo, because this needs to be seen to understand how absurd it is. Carney does a great job debunking this attack, though I won’t get into all the falsehoods in this post.

The bottom line is that this mock “permission slip” is such a fundamental distortion of the opposition to the mandate that Catholic organizations should have little faith Obama takes them or their concerns seriously. He clearly has no interest in understanding, or even pretending to understand, their religious objections to the mandate. The level of insensitivity here is astounding.

Almost as offensive is what this attack says about the Obama campaign’s views of women. Clearly, this is designed to misrepresent the opposition to the mandate in such a way that women are scared into believing their employer might personally question them about their contraception use, or bar them from accessing birth control. This would obviously be an alarming personal intrusion – if it had any grounding in reality.

In fact, it has absolutely no relation to what the Blunt amendment, or any resolution supported by the GOP candidates and Catholic organizations, are actually arguing for. There is no movement out there trying to force women to get permission from work in order to access birth control, and it’s sad the Obama campaign thinks women can be duped into thinking otherwise.

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