Posts tagged with 'health care reform'

Weekly Pulse: The Religious Right vs. Birth Control

Posted Jul 14, 2010 @ 11:06 am by
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by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Does health care reform’s promise of preventive care extend to free birth control? Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have 18 months to decide whether to require insurers to provide oral contraceptives, IUDs, and other prescription birth control with no co-pay. With pro-choice Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the helm, HHS is expected to say yes. [Update: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that birth control will not be on the White House's preliminary list of free preventive services, to be issued today. However, as Miriam Perez of feministing explains, HHS will ultimately have the final word. Observers, including Dana Goldstein who covers reproductive rights for the Daily Beast, are optimistic that the pro-choice side will carry the day at HHS.]

At this point in the process, social conservatives are shut out in the cold, quaking with impotent rage. Now that the reform bill is law, HHS has to interpret the rules—and the Obama administration officials at HHS can’t be swayed as easily as elected officials.

Religious right on the warpath

Predictably, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the National Abstinence Education Association, and the Heritage Foundation are up in arms. They’ve picked a deeply unpopular battle. Abortion remains controversial in some circles, but birth control is as American as baseball. The vast majority of sexually active women in the U.S. tell pollsters that they are not trying to become pregnant, and 89% of them are using some form of birth control.

“Seriously,” writes Monica Potts of TAPPED, “a battle over contraceptives?” Over 15 million Americans currently use hormonal contraception. Studies show that the vast majority of Americans are morally comfortable with birth control.

Expanding access to birth control is smart policy because it reduces health care costs, as Suzi Khimm notes in Mother Jones. Birth control is a lot cheaper for insurers than pregnancy and childbirth. Free birth control could change women’s lives for the better. In this economy, $30-$50 a month for hormonal birth control can be a major obstacle for many. As Michelle Chen notes in ColorLines, women of color are among those hardest hit by out-of-pocket costs.

Birth control as common ground?

Many centrists hope that contraception will be a source of “common ground” between the pro-choice and anti-abortion camps. The premise sounds reasonable. If anti-choicers oppose abortion, surely they will support measures proven to reduce the abortion rate, like expanded access to contraception. Political scientist Scott Lemieux argues in TAPPED that conservative opposition to birth control coverage is further proof that the common ground hypothesis is wishful thinking:

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it ignores the broader set of assumptions about women and sexuality on which actual opposition to abortion is based. Consider anti-choice Republicans, who consistently opposed expanding contraceptive use: Given the choice between reducing abortion rates and controlling female sexuality, they will always choose the latter. Thus the idea that contraception can be a means of achieving a ceasefire in the culture wars has always been a fantasy. Liberals and conservatives aren’t just divided by abortion but by broader questions of female equality and sexual freedom.

The USCCB clearly understands that birth control is broadly popular. Its lobbyists aren’t even trying to argue that birth control shouldn’t be covered because it’s sinful. Instead, they are playing semantic games about what constitutes preventative health care. According to the USCCB, birth control shouldn’t count because fertility isn’t a disease. Be that as it may, pregnancy is a life-altering health condition that can kill you. As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church is on the record as saying that pregnant women must sacrifice their own lives for their fetuses. Ergo, pregnancy prevention is preventive health care.

Approving free birth control would go a long way towards restoring the trust between the Obama administration and its pro-choice base, at low political cost. It seems unlikely that the USCCB and its allies have the power to fuel a national backlash on this one. After all, three quarters of U.S. Catholics disagree with their own church’s teachings on birth control.

Conscience concerns

Speaking of the Department of Health and Human Services, Megan Carpentier at RH Reality Check wonders what happened to President Barack Obama’s early promise to repeal the so-called “conscience clause” rule that allows health care workers to opt out of providing reproductive health care that conflicts with their anti-choice principles. The rule is still on the books, over a year after Obama pledged to repeal it.

FEMA Foul

Finally, how did some BP oil spill cleanup workers end up living in formaldehyde-laced FEMA trailers ruled unfit for human habitation? As I report for Working In These Times, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants answers from FEMA and the General Services Administration about how these trailers found their way back onto the market.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: Rhythm Method Madness

Posted Jun 9, 2010 @ 11:25 am by
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by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user rchappo2002, via Creative Commons licenseSeventeen percent of sexually active teenage girls said they used the rhythm method as a means of birth control in 2008, up from just 11% in 2002, according to the latest report from the CDC. For most of these girls “rhythm method” means guessing the least risky day to have unprotected sex. You and I both know that one in five teenage girls isn’t taking her temperature every day and charting the consistency of her cervical mucus on the calendar.

Not so ab-fab

Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality Check blames abstinence-only propaganda for the trend. She points out that abstinence-based curricula rely heavily on shame to discourage kids from having sex. Teens who are ashamed don’t necessarily abstain, but they are less likely to use birth control when they do have sex. Claiming to use the rhythm method is an excuse not to use real birth control. Marcotte points out that abstinence-only curricula also promotes stereotypes of female passivity and male dominance, which makes it even harder for girls to negotiate condom use. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: FACE the Facts

Posted May 5, 2010 @ 9:40 am by
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by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user oaspetele_de_piatra, via Creative Commons LicenseIn 1993, anti-choice extremists murdered a doctor, burned 12 buildings, set off a bomb, and blockaded 66 abortion clinics. The following year, President Bill Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. FACE made it a federal crime to obstruct a clinic or intimidate patients and providers.

Wendy Norris of RH Reality Check reports that, in the intervening 16 years, the Justice Department has only prosecuted 19 civil and 45 criminal cases under FACE. Abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was assassinated last year by a hardcore clinic protester, and many asked if the FACE Act was being enforced. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Obama Signs Health Reform Bill, Backlash Begins

Posted Mar 24, 2010 @ 11:45 am by
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By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Aliferis, via Creative Commons LicenseYesterday, President Barack Obama signed health care reform into law. As Mike Lillis explains in the Washington Independent, the bill now proceeds to the Senate for reconciliation. The whole process could be complete by the end of the week. Republicans and their allies have already moved to challenge reform in court.

Legal challenges

The fight is far from over, however. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly notes that Republicans have already filed papers to challenge health care reform in court. The Justice Department has pledged to vigorously defend health care reform, according to Zach Roth of TPM Muckraker. (more…)

The Pulse: House Passes Health Care Reform

Posted Mar 22, 2010 @ 10:49 am by
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By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Image Courtesy of Lindsay BeyersteinLast night, the House of Representatives passed comprehensive health care reform after more than a year of fierce debate. The sweeping legislation will extend coverage to 32 million Americans, curb the worst abuses of the private insurance industry, and attempt to contain spiraling health care costs.

The main bill passed the House by a vote  219 to 212, after which the House approved a package of changes to the Senate bill by a vote of 220 to 211. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will sign the main bill into law. Then, the Senate will incorporate the House-approved changes through filibuster-proof budget reconciliation, perhaps as early as this week. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Pelosi Makes Her Move; Republican Rep. Calls for Coup

Posted Mar 17, 2010 @ 11:31 am by
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By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user MeetTheCrazies, via Creative Commons LicenseSpeaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has laid out a strategy to pass health care reform in the next couple of days by allowing the House to vote on the details of the reconciliation package instead of the Senate bill itself. As usual, progressives are fretting that winning will make them look bad. On the other hand, conservatives are baying for blood and calling for revolution.

‘Deem and pass’

Nick Baumann of Mother Jones discusses the parliamentary tactic known as “deem and pass” (D&P), which House Democrats plan to use to avoid voting for the Senate bill before the Senate fixes the bill through reconciliation. The House doesn’t want to sign a blank check. If the health care bill passes the House first, there’s no guarantee that the Senate will make the fixes as promised. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Massa Backs Off Health Care Conspiracy, Glenn Beck Apologizes to the Entire Country

Posted Mar 10, 2010 @ 12:23 pm by
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By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user midv4lley, via Creative Commons LicenseFormer Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) punked conservative talk show host Glenn Beck yesterday by recanting his earlier allegations that House Democrats forced him out of office because he refused to vote for health care reform. Massa resigned on Monday amidst allegations that he sexually harassed one or more male staffers.

Adele Stan has a nice recap of the implosion of Massa’s political career at AlterNet. Massa initially said he was stepping down because he had cancer. Then the news broke that the House Ethics Committee was probing allegations that Massa sexually harassed a male staffer. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Obama to Push for Reconciliation

Posted Mar 3, 2010 @ 12:43 pm by
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By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user seiuhealthcare775nw, under Creative Commons LicenseToday, President Barack Obama will deliver a speech to Congress outlining his plan to move forward on health care reform. The president is expected to advocate the use of budget reconciliation.

Art Levine of Working In These Times warns that some centrist Democrats are already getting cold feet on reconciliation. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, went on TV to declare reconciliation impossible. These guys just don’t get it. It’s reconciliation or defeat. There is no other way. Without reconciliation, the bill dies. Without a bill, the Democrats get massacred in the mid-term elections. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Obama Stalls for Time With Health Care Summit

Posted Feb 10, 2010 @ 11:50 am by
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By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user Brooks Elliott, used under Creative Commons LicensePresident Barack Obama’s February 25 health care summit, where he will appear on TV with Republican leaders, has been hailed and assailed as yet another gesture towards bipartisanship. But the summit is really a delaying tactic. It’s a decoy, something shiny to keep the chattering classes entertained while Congressional Democrats wheel and deal furiously behind the scenes.

At this point, there are two ways forward, and neither of them require Republican support. The first option is for the House to pass the Senate health care bill as written—but with the understanding that the Senate will later fix certain contentious parts of the bill through reconciliation. The second option is for the Senate to pass the reconciliation fix first and the House to pass the bill later. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Who are Landrieu’s Alleged Phone Tamperers?

Posted Feb 3, 2010 @ 12:59 pm by
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Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

The four young men arrested last week for allegedly attempting to tamper with the phones at the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have ties to Republican politicians, conservative think tanks, radical campus activists, and even the intelligence community.

It appears that Landrieu was targeted, at least indirectly, because of her stance on health care reform. Two of the men posed as telephone repairmen while a third taped them with his cell phone. A fourth alleged accomplice was arrested in a car a few blocks away. (more…)