Sisterhood Blog

Was Contraception Move a Master Stroke?

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Like many other feminist political junkies this morning, my emotions were sent back and forth.

At first I was dismayed by the announcement that President Obama had agreed to a compromise (or was it an “accommodation”) on his smart policy that would have required employers, even most religiously affiliated ones, to consent to employee insurance plans that included free contraception.The Catholic Church has been raising a huge fuss about this — and the media has largely taken its side — and so the fear was this would be a full capitulation.

But when the plan was revealed, many began to realize that the “accommodation” might have in fact been a master stroke by the administration, at least politically speaking. The new rule will allow women at these institutions that object to contraception coverage to get that coverage, free of charge, directly from insurance companies.

Jodi Jacobson broke it down moments after the announcement:

Despite deep concerns, including my own, based on what transpired in the past under health reform, the White House has decided on a plan to address the birth control mandate that will enable women to get contraceptive coverage directly through their insurance plans without having to buy a rider or a second plan, and without having to negotiate with or through religious entities or administrations that are hostile to primary reproductive health care, including but not limited to contraception.

At a brief press conference to explain this choice, President Obama sounded an economic populist message when he noted that women everywhere, regardless of their employers’ religious beliefs, will “no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars of a year” on contraception, money that could go “towards paying the rent or buying groceries.”

Indeed, the move is widely seen as a shrewd one, in that it shifts the conversation back from religion to women and makes the administration’s critics look like contraception haters, not liberty defenders. Greg Sargent writes:

If Team Obama has its way, the argument will now be about whether all women should have access to contraception, and not about whether these institutions are having their religious freedom impinged upon.

The religious freedom argument was always a distracting ploy. In fact, the bishops object to any employers being mandated to offer insurance that includes birth control simply because they hate the stuff. This move by the President reveals where they stand. As a result of this decision, my inbox this afternoon flooded with press releases of praise for the President and his decision — all from feminist organizations. The facts on the ground for women, they note, don’t change from the original plan. Women’s health is finally being taken seriously.

Still, as others have noted, there are some potential pitfalls here. Republicans in Congress will try to attack this mandate. We are also now segregating contraception just as we do for abortion, perhaps stigmatizing women’s health further. And even as the new rule gets implemented, putting such a personal matter in the hands of insurance companies, who care more about bottom lines than they care about, well, care, carries a risk. The question of privacy and discretion for those people who will want that direct contraceptive coverage (such as minors) from insurers looms, as does whether those individuals, like those in the transgender community, who may not “need” contraception will be able to obtain it.

Terry O’Neill of NOW told Sargent that the real test for this decision will be the girl-walks-into-a-pharmacy test. How easy will it be for a young woman, let’s say, or a single mom who goes to a Catholic (or Jewish) university or works at a Catholic hospital, to get the contraception coverage, get the prescription, walk up to that counter and get those pills, or patches, or rings, or whatever she needs? We will all have to keep a sharp eye on the forthcoming experience of our sisters, daughters and friends, our students and employees alike, to see whether this brilliant politicking is also brilliant policy.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Catholic Church, Health Care, Birth Control Contraception Coverage, Barack Obama

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.