Last week, the Obama administration proposed new regulations for determining which religiously affiliated employers and nonprofit organizations would have to provide no-cost contraceptive coverage in their insurance plans. Under the adjusted policy, churches and other houses of worship are still exempt from having to provide this coverage, and other religious entities (such as charities or universities) would not have to issue plans that directly provide birth control coverage. Employees at those organizations would instead, as the Washington Post put it, receive a “stand-alone, private insurance policy that would provide contraceptive coverage at no cost.”
This decision protects women’s ability to access contraception without co-pay. AAUW is pleased that the administration resisted efforts to exempt for-profit companies from providing this critical health insurance coverage. The decision will lead to real benefits, including fewer unintended pregnancies and a better quality of life for women. If you’d like to learn more about whether your insurance plan covers these services, a health advocacy group has prepared an easy-to-use tip sheet.
However, we are concerned that another regulation, also announced last week, could limit women’s ability to access this care. The proposal would exempt student health plans self-funded by colleges from benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
This proposal would affect only about 30 institutions — mostly major private and public research universities — that self-fund their student health insurance plans, but this loophole could inspire other schools to begin self-funding their plans to remove contraceptive coverage, which AAUW would strongly oppose. As one consumer group put it, “Without federal protections and only minimal state oversight, self-funded plans are free to discriminate based on preexisting conditions, offer limited coverage with low annual limits on benefits, and commit a number of consumer abuses that the ACA was designed to eliminate.”
Although these are modifications to existing policies, they’ll have a big impact on women across the country. Subscribe to AAUW’s Washington Update to keep up to date on these developments and what they mean for women and girls.
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Roe v. Wade advocates at AAUW of Colorado and our coalition partners are yard-sign collectors. Why? Biennial efforts to confer personhood in our state’s constitution for increasingly earlier prebirth stages of development seem to crop up like noxious weeds with a two-year life cycle. Thus Colorado sign wars ensued in 2008 and 2010 when amendments 48 and 62 made it onto the ballot. Proponents and opponents squared off in yards, on roadsides, and in various media outlets, hotly debating whether select uterine contents should have the same rights as a person under Colorado law.
“Vote No” yard sign from Amy Blackwell’s own yard
Think about the implications of such proposed constitutional amendments, which also appear on ballots in states other than Colorado. While the goal of these measures is to make abortion illegal, the consequences are much farther-reaching. Pull up your state’s constitution on the Internet and do a search on the word “person.” Then pull up your state’s compiled statutes and search that word again. You’ll see thousands of hits highlighting laws that affect nearly every aspect of life! Rolling back abortion access through prebirth personhood disrupts the legal system because there are countless instances in which a law cannot effectively be interpreted and enforced when a fertilized egg has personhood status.
Opponents of Colorado personhood amendments hammered upon these law-compromising ramifications, as well as the illegalization of procedures like in vitro fertilization and the total ban on abortion — even in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the life of the mother — to create a groundswell of “no” votes. In 2008, Coloradans rejected Amendment 48, with 73 percent voting no. The vote count against 2010’s Amendment 62 was 71 percent to 29 percent. It’s a cautionary tale, however. The nearly 3-to-1 defeats do not mean that Coloradans overwhelmingly favor abortion access. Amendment 48 and 62 opponents, in large part, thought that the measures simply went too far.
Perhaps opponents’ decline-to-sign petition efforts are finally taking root. In August 2012, AAUW of Colorado and other pro-choice advocates breathed a huge sigh of relief when Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced that personhood ballot petition circulators had failed to submit the required number of signatures. Personhood proponents launched a legal protest, but the 2012 measure did not make the ballot.
We Colorado choice champions celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and hope that our yard-sign collecting days are over — but we remain vigilant lest another personhood ballot initiative crops up.
This post was written by AAUW Director and AAUW of Colorado Public Policy Co-Director Amy Blackwell.
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Posted in The AAUW Community, Women's Health, tagged AAUW, My Vote: I Will Be Heard, reproductive rights, Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court, Washington D.C., women's rights on January 23, 2012,|
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Today is the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, but it’s not a very happy birthday. Over the last year, we’ve seen unprecedented attempts to limit women’s control over their own bodies. States passed 83 laws restricting access to abortion, nearly four times as many as the 23 laws passed in 2010. Five states banned all abortions after 20 weeks of gestation; seven now require an ultrasound, or the offer of one, prior to the procedure; and eight will no longer allow private insurance plans to cover the procedure. Several states are fighting to bar abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from receiving government funds even for the nonabortion services they provide, and the House of Representatives has voted to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding.
So the fight continues. AAUW has made the protection of full reproductive rights a policy principle since 1977 and strongly supports the right of every woman to safe, accessible, affordable, and comprehensive family planning and reproductive health services. Study after study has shown that women and their families do better when women are able to plan their pregnancies. For example, the expense of unintended pregnancy leads to economic insecurity for women and their families. Every woman has the ability to make her own informed choices regarding her reproductive life within the dictates of her own moral and religious beliefs, and no politician should insert herself or himself when it comes to this personal decision.
Make sure women’s priorities, including reproductive freedom, are addressed in the upcoming election by joining the AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard, a nationwide voter education and turnout campaign. Women wield great power in America, and our voices will be heard in 2012. More than ever before, women are registering to vote and casting ballots in greater numbers and with more consistency than men. We are a powerful and influential bloc of voters, and our support of women’s right to control their own bodies will be heard.
Join us in defending Roe and this critical right!
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AAUW Thousand Oaks (CA) Branch member Colleen Briner-Schmidt donates to AAUW to protect her daughter’s and granddaughter’s futures. What about you?
Thanks to all of our generous donors, AAUW has had victories this year that make the future brighter for women and girls. But the fight isn’t over. Recent rulings against reproductive rights, attacks on Social Security and Medicare, and other threats to women’s security will bring tough challenges in 2012. Please help ensure that AAUW can continue to have your back, time and time again, by making a tax-deductible gift now.
Thanks for making 2011 a great year for women’s advocacy. We hope you’ll be a part of our work in 2012.
Happy holidays from AAUW!
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