WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Frank Lautenberg reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that women have access to the full range of preventative health services covered under the Affordable Care Act, including birth control.
As a counterpoint to House Speaker John Boehner’s vow to legislate away regulations on universal access to birth control, Lautenberg was one of five Senate Democrats standing up for the Obama administration’s ruling that mandates that employers cover the full range of reproductive health services in their insurance policies with no co-pay, with a narrow religious exemption and conscience protections.
“Women in this country have a right to expect affordable, quality health care but those rights are under attack,” by what Lautenberg called “a Male-a-garchy,” rejuvenating term the Democratic lawmaker coined nine years ago while combating another intrusion by men on the right of women to make their own reproductive choices.
Joining Lautenberg in defense of birth control were Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
A top women’s campaign group also asked supporters to tell the White House to stand strong on these provisions.
“We need your help right now,” said EMILYs List President Stephanie Shriock. “Right wing extremists are up in arms, deluging the White House with messages telling President Obama to reverse his (correct!) decision to ensure that all women have access to contraception, without a copay, no matter where they work.”
The Affordable Care Act guarantees access to birth control, defining it as a preventive health benefit that must be provided by insurance companies. Those provisions do not apply to health insurance policies provided to employees by religious institutions, they do control other businesses — such as hospitals and universities — owned by ecclesiastical entities.
Edward Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop-emeritus of New York, said President Obama and his administration is forcing religious institutions to provide sterilization or abortion-inducing drugs to employees, but advocates argue the government is only requiring that employers, be they religious or not, to afford workers the choice to use contraceptives.
Lautenberg said 90 percent of American women use or have used some form of birth control, and he noted that “it can be very expensive.”