Schakowsky supports birth control for all

Jia You

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U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) and three other Democratic congresswomen advocated President Barack Obama’s new policy on birth control during a news conference call Wednesday. The policy would require all employers who provide health insurance to provide birth control without a co-pay to women employees.

Americans United for Change, a labor-backed group aligned with Democrats, hosted the conference call after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) vowed to overturn the policy, denouncing it as a violation of religious freedom because its coverage includes religiously affiliated organizations such as schools and hospitals. Boehner threatened legislative action if the Obama administration does not change its stance.

“The idea that birth control could be controversial in 2012 is outrageous,” Schakowsky said in the call. “Women’s health care should not depend on who the boss is.”

The new policy strikes a balance between religious freedom and individual freedom, Schakowsky said. It exempts religious institutions, such as churches, from providing birth control benefits for their employees, she added.

Schakowsky argued religiously affiliated hospitals and religiously affiliated universities have an obligation to comply with the new rule.

“If religiously affiliated hospitals and universities want to be part of the business world, then they have to follow the same rules as other businesses,” Schakowsky said in the call.

The Obama administration based its decision to provide birth control benefits on scientific evidence, said U.S. Reps. Lois Capps (D–Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). Contraception decreases infant mortality, unintended pregnancy and ovarian cancer, they said.

The policy would reduce “long-standing gender discrimination” against women in health care, DeLauro added. Birth control costs $600 to $1,200 a year, a sum many women struggle with, she said.

“It is historic that this happened for women’s heath, which has always been put on the back burner when we address health issues,” DeLauro said.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) called the controversy over the policy a “distortion of the constitutional concept of church and state.”

“What the debate is about today is whether or not the church can impose its religious view upon people and dictate that they cannot have health care,” Moore said.

Schakowsky said she expects a backlash among women if lawmakers oppose the proposed birth control policy.

“It would be at their peril if they try to undo this,” she said.

Editor’s note: This article incorrectly cited the yearly cost of birth control. It has since been updated to reflect the correction. The Daily regrets the error.