Published on RH Reality Check – Wednesday, February 8, 2012
It seems that no reproductive justice victory can stand free of assault by the anti-choice set. On Monday, January 30, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla)introduced legislation  that would overturn the Department of Health and Human Services mandate  requiring religiously-affiliated organizations to provide free birth control with their employee health plan packages.
According to The Hill, the legislation proposed by the staunch anti-choice senator and devout Roman Catholic would allow those establishments to deny birth control coverage due to moral opposition , as well as prohibit penalties for such repudiation, thus amending the mandate with the following language:
No guideline or regulation issued pursuant to subsection (a)(4), or any other provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, or the amendments made by that Act (Public Law 110-148), shall
- require any individual or entity to offer, provide, or purchase coverage for a contraceptive or sterilization service, or related education or counseling, to which that individual or entity is opposed on the basis of religious belief;
- require any individual or entity opposed by reason of religious belief to provide coverage of a contraceptive or sterilization service or to engage in government-mandated speech regarding such a service.
Sen. Rubio’s bill, misleadingly titled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012 , is just another notch in a long line of anti-choice attempts to restrict women’s access to reproductive services since HHS announced the guidelines in August. Contraceptive opponents have pushed back hard, claiming the rule, which was confirmed early January by the Obama Administration , is “too narrow,” and infringes on the First Amendment rights of religiously-affiliated organizations, such as hospitals and universities, that aren’t excused from the mandate (only religious institutions that serve and employ those of the same tenets, such as houses of worship, are exempt under the guidelines). This misguided stance, it seems, is what’s driving Sen. Rubio, who said in a press release :
“The Obama administration’s obsession with forcing mandates on the American people has now reached a new low by violating the conscience rights and religious liberties of our people…
Under this president, we have a government that has grown too big, too costly and now even more overbearing by forcing religious entities to abandon their beliefs. This is a common-sense bill that simply says the government can’t force religious organizations to abandon the fundamental tenets of their faith because the government says so.”
This piece of legislation, which is backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.),reports the Miami Herald , flies in the face of statistics and reality. In a study released in April, the Guttmacher Institute found that 98 percent of Catholic women use contraceptives , with 68 percent using either the pill, sterilization or another highly effective method (73 percent of Mainline Protestants and 74 percent of Evangelicals also use these methods). While the 40-year-old Rubio and his wife may not have consciously planned their four children because, according to Politico , they “adhere to church policy” prohibiting contraception, that’s clearly not the case for other women who share his faith (tidbit: Politico reports “he never tried to impose his views on other Catholics, who use birth control.” Sure.)
Moreover, the Catholic Advocate PAC-endorsed politician speaks and acts for a state that not only has nearly a quarter million unintended pregnancies each year, but also has the twelfth highest rate of teen pregnancy in America, with 19 percent of teen mothers experiencing repeat teen births, according to a recent Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates’ Florida Women’s Health at Risk report . Additionally, notes the analysis, births from unintended pregnancies in Florida cost the public $641.5 million.
In the end, Judith Selzer, spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, put it best to Huffington Post:
“It makes no sense, given Florida’s unintended pregnancy rate, to write a bill to limit women’s access to birth control. He should be working to expand access to reproductive health care services—that would be common sense.”
Follow Annamarya Scaccia on Twitter, @sitswithpasta