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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Is At It Again

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reports on the "controversy" over Wisconsin’s efforts to make contraception more available and affordable to women. A small but important part of the Affordable Care Act, championed by the National Women’s Law Center, allows states like Wisconsin to make more women eligible for family planning services — contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and other preventive health care — through the Medicaid program, without having to get special permission from the federal government to do so. Twenty-seven states — including Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Louisiana — have sought and obtained this special permission, known as a "waiver," to expand eligibility for family planning services to low-income women not otherwise eligible for the full package of Medicaid benefits. With passage of the Affordable Care Act, states like Wisconsin are taking steps to strengthen and improve their programs and help make contraception more affordable for women.

But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, not content just to try and take away insurance coverage for abortion, is going after this new program. In the article, Richard Doerfinger of the Conference expresses his concern — without a hint of irony — that the provision reflects "a very dismissive view of women: the reproductive system is the only part of you we're interested in, and our interest is only to make sure it doesn't produce."

Thanks for you concern, Richard. But here’s the truth: contraception helps women.

The National Women’s Law Center, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill, recently asked to hear from women about how the Pill changed their lives. One woman wrote that the Pill improved her health:

When I was 12, I began suffering from severe menstrual cramps that would keep me bed-ridden for about two days every month. Not until I was 25 did my doctor recommend the Pill! I wish I had known earlier because now I no longer need to call out from work or miss out on other things. The Pill has alleviated all my pain and now I’m able to live a 'normal' life.

Another wrote in about how the Pill helped her leave her abusive husband:

Thanks to the Pill I was able to have one planned child, able to leave my batterer and not be kept barefoot and pregnant. It saved my life.

One wrote about the impact the Pill had on her financial future:

Without access to birth control, my ability to flourish in my educational and professional career would be severely limited. Thanks to the Pill I have control over my reproductive health and can have children on my terms.

And another wrote about how the Pill has made her a better mom:

A few months ago, I had a baby. I don’t know much yet about being a mother, but I do know one thing for sure: I am a better parent in my thirties than I would have been in my teens or twenties.

We don’t always stop to think about it, but it’s true: contraception has helped women — millions of us — lead happier, healthier, fuller lives.

And women of all stripes know it. A 2007 survey found that 89% of Americans overall and 71% of Catholics favor legislation that would make it easier for women at all income levels to obtain contraception. And a 2009 survey found that even 63% of Republicans and Independents favor the "controversial" legislation included in the Affordable Care Act that gives states the flexibility to expand insurance coverage for contraceptives under Medicaid.

Bottom line: the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ faux-feminism is trying to make it harder and more expensive for women to get contraception.

You know what? It’s one thing to oppose birth control. But it’s especially galling to oppose birth control and claim that it’s for my own good.

Enough is enough.

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