Birth Control! For Everybody!

Ashley Baxstrom: Ladies, let’s celebrate! Check out this breaking blog post from Think Progress: Obama administration approves rule that guarantees near-universal contraceptive coverage, by guest blogger Jessica Arons, Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at American Progress. She writes:

Today, in a huge victory for women’s health, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that most employers will be required to cover contraception in their health plans, along with other preventive services, with no cost-sharing such as co-pays or deductibles.

Twenty-eight states already require employers to provide some coverage; but now, full coverage will be required in all.

Wowza! You know what that means – yup, Viagra no longer corners the coverage market. (Cuz, you know, Viagra has been fully covered for years. Good for men. Sucked for women who thought they should have equal rights or fair treatment or whatever.)

Besides that, it means that even most religiously-affiliated organizations have to comply. Obama decided to “maintain the narrow religious exemption that it initially proposed. Only houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith will be exempt.”

THIS IS A GOOD THING. Family planning is good for women, good for children. Good for their health, their finances, their families. It’s also a huge part, as Arons points out, of reducing unwanted pregnancies and the need for abortion.

Of course, just because the President approved it doesn’t mean it’s totally decided or certain or effective or anything. First of all, there’s a layover plan: “Religiously-affiliated employers who do not qualify for the exemption and are not currently offering contraceptive coverage may apply for transitional relief for a one-year period to give them time to determine how to comply with the rule.”

And secondly, don’t expect the religious right, Catholic Church or other anti-birth-control people to go down without a fight. When Catholic adoption agencies were told they had to let gay couples adopt, they opted to shut down instead. This is just one example of the ways in which the Catholic Church and other religious conservatives are trying to make claims of religious freedom in the service of discrimination. Just before the end of the year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that they were prepared to accuse the administration of religious discrimination if they didn’t drop this required-coverage regulation.

So the grand war for women’s equality is far from over, and this is just one more front in the battle of reproductive rights. But right now, I think I’ll take a minute to sit back and enjoy a moment to feel appreciated and, for even just this instance, equally represented.

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