Take Action: Speak Out on “Conscience Clauses”

The other day, I got this action alert from FFRF that I thought was worth passing along:

As you may know, on August 1st, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services jointly announced new guidelines for access to preventative care. The new regulations greatly expand access to preventative care under the new health care act, particularly for women. One of the most significant changes is the provision that all FDA-approved contraceptives (including emergency contraception), as well as contraceptive counseling and education, shall be provided without a co-pay fee.

…Ironically, while these provisions are almost certain to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S., religious groups are fighting these health services and demanding broad exemptions based on religious and “conscience” grounds.

…FFRF would prefer that no religious employer exemption be provided. However, some religious groups are agitating for broader exemptions… They want to grant religious third parties the right to deny medical care and FDA-approved treatment on the basis of personal “conscience” – without regard to the conscience of the women who are actually impacted by these preventative services! Reproductive rights opponents, particularly Catholic and evangelical organizations, are lobbying to expand this narrow exception so that any organization even vaguely affiliated with religion (such as denominational hospitals open to the public) can deny basic healthcare to women in need of contraception and contraceptive counseling.

Full coverage for contraceptives is one of the all-too-rare unequivocally good moves by the Obama administration, and we can’t let the advocates of religious misogyny dilute it. The “conscience clause” is an insidious and harmful way for believers to claim that their superstitions excuse them from complying with the law, and we need to push back against its expansion. The administration should hear loud and clear from us that any exceptions to this rule should be as narrow as possible.

If you want to leave a comment, go to regulations.gov, click on the “submit a comment” button, and enter “CMS-9992-IFC2″ into the keyword search field. There will be three results, which all refer to this same regulation, so you can comment on any of them. The comment period closes on Friday, so get to it!

Here’s the one I sent in:

To Whom It May Concern:

Access to contraception is a human right and should be protected accordingly. That’s why I’m writing to urge you not to expand the exemptions to the recently announced rule that requires all employers to cover contraception for their employees without a co-pay.

The vast majority of men and women in America, regardless of their religious beliefs, use contraception at some point during their lives. Birth control ensures that every child is a wanted child, and by doing so, leads to happier and more stable families and less poverty and more education for children. There’s every reason for a democratic government to strongly support its use and ensure that everyone who wants it has access to it. Please don’t bow to the demands of a small, noisy minority. Leave this rule as is!

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • L.Long

    You have no need to worry about this. The US congress has no balls to stand against a concerted fight with the ‘hole-ier then thous’. They will most likely give them their concession and then wonder why they have so many problems with abortions and STDs.

  • Jim Baerg

    Is there any point to non-USians commenting on that site?

  • Fargus

    So it seems to me that the incentive with a conscience clause would be for rabid anti-choicers to get themselves into positions where they can exercise their personal choices in such a way as to form basically a wall between people and legal products and services. Probably not applicable on a broad scale, but on a community-by-community basis, what’s to stop every pharmacy in a certain area from being staffed entirely by people who refuse to give out contraceptives on conscience grounds?

  • jemand

    Comment submitted.

  • Zach

    Comment submitted. Here’s hoping that we win this fight.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

    “Access to contraception is a human right and should be protected accordingly. ”

    Why do you think that contraception is a right? What is your argument for that? And what is your argument for that in light of other things that are not fully covered and not mandated to be so? For me, for example, some dental services and, more importantly, glasses and eye tests are not covered, as well as other medical services that would leave people in pain if not treated. Why do contraceptives deserve full pay? And, even if contraception is a right, why does that mean that it has to paid for?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Jim Baerg (#2): Sorry, I think this one is for U.S. citizens only.

  • LindaJoy

    I sent a comment through FFRF’s alert.

  • Lagerbaer

    So what if a group of fundamentalist Muslims decides that it has had it with those inebriated Americans and encourages its followers to become liquor store salespersons who then, on grounds of their conscience, refuse to sell liquor?

    If a person wants to use contraception, that person has already thought about what his/her god (if he/she has one) will think about that, and obviously came to the conclusion that he/she will be just fine. It’s then nobody else’s business to make the decision for them.

  • jack

    Comment sent. Hope it does some good. Thanks for calling attention to this.