On March 25 of this year, we went to Washington to demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court against Hobby Lobby, an arts and craft store that was about to open its doors in Rutland. We went because we could not believe, as two women in their 70s with daughters and granddaughters, that birth control could possibly still be an issue or that any boss has the right to deny an employee’s access to birth control solely on religious grounds. The recent ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, therefore, came as a shock and disappointment to us both and for the three generations of women in our families.
The birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act is a commonsense policy that helps women make responsible decisions by eliminating cost as a barrier to the most reliable forms of birth control. Corporations should not be adding barriers to that access based on their personal beliefs. Birth control is a health care and economic concern for women. Women should have access to basic, preventive care no matter where they live, who they work for, or how much money they make.
And the birth control benefit has had a significant impact. Planned Parenthood, a trusted women’s health provider that has been serving women in Rutland for decades, reports that “thanks to the birth control benefit, women already have saved $483 million in the last year alone. Studies also show that women who received birth control with no co-pay or at a reduced cost are able to avoid more than 2 million unplanned pregnancies each year, which also reduces the need for abortion.” In our home state, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 72,000 Vermont women have already accessed preventive services — such as birth control — with no out-of-pocket cost.
The question remains: What are we going to do about it? As a start, contact any of the three members of our congressional delegation — Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch — to thank them for co-sponsoring a bill that would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The bill, the Not My Bosses’ Business Act, is a modest measure that would ensure that bosses cannot deny women access to basic birth control coverage based on their personal religious beliefs. While we can’t believe that in 2014 we are still debating birth control, this is a good place to start.
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