Religious Leaders Celebrate Affordable Care Act - Landmark in Women's Health - as an Expression of Religious Values
August 2, 2012
Washington, DC - Religious leaders from diverse traditions joined in a press conference on July 30 held by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) to celebrate a landmark in women’s health care - the historic new coverage for women’s contraceptives and other preventive care in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The leaders represented several RCRC member organizations - the United Church of Christ, Catholics for Choice, Central Conference of American Rabbis and United Methodist General Board of Church and Society – as well as Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington, DC.
RCRC President and CEO Rev. Harry Knox praised the new health care provisions as a blessing. “Millions of women will now have access to contraception and other healthcare services that will help them and their families to live a whole, healthy life as God intends.”
Rev. Knox announced RCRC’s Celebration and Education Campaign for Contraceptive Coverage. The RCRC campaign is assisting clergy and religious leaders of all faiths in informing their congregants about the health care safeguards and benefits for women and their families in the ACA. RCRC is providing talking points for sermons and other educational presentations, bulletin inserts, an interactive online quiz, social media messages, and suggestions about how clergy and religious leaders can use the new ACA protections in their counseling processes. The goal is to help women and men understand what services are available so they will be prepared to request those services when most open enrollment periods begin, particularly in September and January.
Religious Leaders Participating in RCRC July 30 News Conference
Along with Rev. Knox, the press conference speakers were (please click on the links for their remarks)
Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice;
Reverend Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ; Rabbi Jessica Oleon of Temple Sinai in Washington, DC, the representative of the Central Conference of American Rabbis to RCRC;
Reverend Dr. Christine Wiley, pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington, DC; and
Reverend Cynthia Abrams, Program Director for Healthcare Advocacy for the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS).
Rev. Knox said, “I believe sexuality is a gift from God. It is a gift that is given to us to use with reverence and responsibility. Our government policies and laws should protect each person’s ability to access and use birth control according to their own conscience and religious beliefs.”
Even though the ACA safeguards are critical to women’s health, some religious group have opposed them. This opposition is “out of step with public opinion” and potentially harmful to health, Rev. Knox said.
“Unfortunately, false prophets have been misleading the public about health care reform and especially about contraception,” he said. “These naysayers are spending their donor dollars and time on frivolous lawsuits against women’s health care. We think this is an outrage. I have counseled women in great distress and need. Women who tell me they have more children than they can care for, who are out of work, who cope with abuse and family conflict. It is a moral imperative for a government that cares about human welfare to make sure that contraception is available.”
Opponents of the ACA’s contraception provision are factually and medically wrong in claiming contraception and emergency contraception can cause an abortion. Contraception, including emergency contraception, does not affect an established pregnancy. “It is a disservice to women to say that it does, including women who are victims of sexual assault who most need emergency contraception,” he said.
These opponents are also wrong about religious liberty, he said. “This is a very complex subject but one thing is clear: decisions about birth control should be a matter of individual conscience, not institutional policy. Individuals, not employers, should be responsible for making decisions about birth control.”
While it’s important to respect the right of these groups to express their views, Rev. Knox said he must draw the line at what they are actually doing: “Substituting religious beliefs for contemporary science and then claiming their religious freedom is being violated.” He added that opponents such as the Catholic bishops do not represent the views of women or families or most people of faith. In fact, 98 percent of women of all religions use contraception at some point in their lives.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, sponsor of the July 30 news conference, is the national coalition of denominations and organizations supporting reproductive health and reproductive justice. Members include the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Association; Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism; Catholics for Choice, and other religiously affiliated organizations.
The eight preventive benefits that non-grandfathered insurance plans must cover without cost, starting when their plan years renew on or after August 1, 2012, together are a huge step towards a time when all people have access to all the health care they need. They are:
- Breastfeeding: comprehensive support and counseling from trained providers, as well as access to breastfeeding supplies, for pregnant and nursing women
- Contraception: Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling and over-the-counter methods
- Domestic and interpersonal violence: screening and counseling for all women
- Gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): screening and counseling for sexually active women
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) DNA Test: high risk HPV DNA testing every three years for women with normal cytology results who are 30 or older
- Sexually Transmi tted Infections (STI): counseling for sexually active women
- Well-woman visits: to obtain recommended preventive services for women under 65
Religious Leaders Back Contraceptive Coverage in Affordable Care Act
Rev. Harry Knox's Powerful Statement on
Religious Liberty on RHRealityCheck.Org