REASON 44: Thanks to President Obama’s health care reforms, nearly 50 million American women have access to contraception and preventive health services without having to pay out of pocket in the form of a co-pay or deductible.
I have worked for women and with women all my life, so I know them well, and I have a foundation dedicated to empowering women and girls. I am particularly passionate about reproductive rights—a fundamental human right that would not be questioned if men gave birth—because for a woman to be in charge of her life, first she needs to be in charge of her body. Otherwise she cannot realize her potential and participate as an equal partner in her family, her community and the world at large.
As someone born before contraception was available, I know very well what it would mean for all women if the forces that are determined to turn back the clock on women’s rights—reproductive and otherwise, even at the expense of their health—win this election.
Obama’s new health policy, which went into effect August 1, 2012, mandates that all new or renewing health insurance plans provide women with access to all FDA-approved forms of contraception for free—meaning no co-payment or deductible required. The policy, which affects approximately 47 million women, also guarantees the same deal for preventive health services, including annual well-woman visits, counseling for domestic abuse, breastfeeding supplies, HIV screening, and testing for cervical cancer.
The administration’s commitment to birth control in particular could not come at a better time. Ready access to reproductive services is under attack not only in Congress, state legislatures, and the nation’s courts, but also in the court of public opinion. But what’s not to like about a policy dedicated to reducing the rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion, preventing illness, and saving money? Or about a woman in control of her body and her fertility? Ask the conservatives who refuse to look beyond the “moral” issue of women having sex, which inflames them.
Anyone who doubts that the most extreme—and most powerful—branch of the Republican party is waging a war against women should consider the fact that not one Republican leader, least of all Mitt Romney, had the guts to stand up for Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke when Rush Limbaugh savaged her on air, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for asserting her belief that the university’s health plan should cover contraception.
Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania went so far as to denounce Obama’s new contraception rule as an assault on religious freedom comparable to the attacks on 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. Free access to reproductive and other health services equivalent to the two worst foreign attacks on American soil? Seriously? This is terrorism against women.
According to a 2010 Commonwealth Fund survey, nearly half of all women delayed or skipped doctor visits and medical services because they couldn’t afford it. Thanks to the new health care law, women will no longer have to choose between a $20 insurance co-pay (not to mention a $200—or even $2,000—deductible) and putting food on their families’ tables. But only if Obama is in office. Romney, citing the same, tired attack on religious liberty, assured his base that he would move quickly to overturn the birth control mandate if elected.
My foundation is guided by a vision of a world in which women have achieved social and economic justice—a world in which women control their minds, their bodies and their finances. Reproductive rights are at the heart of that vision. And of the two candidates running for the office of President of the United States, only Barack Obama shares my vision. That is reason enough for me.
San Rafael, California