Recently, the district court for District of Columbia granted a request by Tyndale House Publishers to block the Affordable Care Act birth control benefit ensuring that employer-sponsored health insurance include coverage of contraception without a co-pay. (Jessica Mason Pielko wrote about the ruling here.)
Like so many other organizations, both religious and secular, for-profit and non-profit, Tyndale’s complaints are the same: the birth control benefit in the ACA infringes upon their right to religious freedom:
Tyndale and its owners are Christians who are committed to biblical principles, including the belief that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God from the moment of their conception/fertilization. But Defendants’ recently enacted regulatory mandate under PPACA forces Tyndale to provide and pay for drugs and devices that it and its owners believe can cause the death of human beings created in the image and likeness of God shortly after their conception/fertilization. The government’s mandate exempts what it calls “religious employers,” but denies that status to Tyndale House Publishers through its arbitrary definition.
What sets Tyndale apart from other companies challenging the birth control benefit, some of which have been successful in their challenges, and some of which have not, is that Tyndale is self-insured, whereas companies like Hobby Lobby purchase group health insurance plans from a commercial insurance carrier. In other words, Tyndale wholly assumes and underwrites the risk for providing health care to its employees (and pays for it out of its own coffers), while Hobby Lobby pays premiums to an outside insurance company. That it is self-insured means that Tyndale is paying directly for the insurance coverage of the contraception that it views as sinful, and the court found that this distinguishable fact rendered the birth control benefit sufficiently violative of Tyndale’s right to religious freedom.
Now, the court did not reach this decision in a vacuum, mind you. The Obama Administration’s compromise with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) paved the way.
Mind you this was when he was more “moderate”
as governor of Massachusetts in 2005, Romney took a harder line on contraception, vetoing a widely supported bill that would make the morning-after pill available over the counter in that state and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.
Just another reminder why Romney would be a bad thing for repro rights
But when it comes to the plight of Black women, something about this doesn’t sit right with me. And not because I subscribe to any of the pro-life foolishness that claims that birth control and Planned Parenthood are a cover for controlling and reducing the amount of Black babies in the world. I’m not downplaying the importance of birth control and its ability to give women (who can afford it or don’t have access to it) control of their reproduction, either.
My main problem is that it seems like this entire conversation about the consequences of not using contraception is focused solely on pregnancy as being the unwanted outcome. And we find this to be especially true when white-managed women’s and reproductive health groups are leading that conversation. This is incredibly problematic because we all know that when it comes to sexual and reproductive health, women of color and low-income are also worrying about other issues that birth control does not protect them from: HIV/AIDS and STDs.
Black women accounted for 64 percent of new AIDS diagnoses among women, ages 13 and older, in 2010, but only 13 percent of the U.S. population of women, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Latinas accounted for 17 percent of new AIDS diagnoses, compared to 14 percent of the female population ages 13 and over. Black women also accounted for the majority of new HIV infections among women in 2009. Not to mention, Black women are 22 times more likely to die from HIV/AIDS compared to their white counterparts.
According to a 2009 CDC study, 48 percent of African-American female teens have been diagnosed with an STD. Gonorrhea rates among African-Americans are higher than any other racial or ethnic group and 20 times higher than that of whites. Among women, Black women 15 to 19 years of age had the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea, followed by Black women ages 20 to 24.
With all of this knowledge, I look back to this Washington University study and wonder did these researchers talk to these women about condoms, condom negotiation and HIV, given that the same women participating are the same ones most at-risk for HIV in St. Louis? And did having this free birth control impact condom use by giving couples a false sense of protection?
Let’s be clear: Unplanned pregnancy and abortion rates may have gone down, but HIV and STD rates have not.
And so it’s pretty obvious that the women’s and reproductive health movements cannot just arm women, especially Black women, with pills and IUDs and walk away as if their work is done. And they can’t expect for AIDS Inc. to be responsible for the “other” stuff. And most importantly, we sure as hell cannot address these epidemics without including men in the conversation.
|—||Kellee Terrell, “Commentary: Does The Birth Control Debate Ignore STDs And HIV/AIDS?,” bet.com 10/15/12 (via racialicious)|
Sunny Clifford, a 26-year-old Pine Ridge Tribal park ranger, has launched a Change.org petition that seeks to improve the quality of women’s lives by making Plan B available—and affordable—throughout Indian Country.
Fuck yeah, Sunny Clifford!
I know many people want to learn about non-hormonal options for birth control. This could be a great place to start.
In ARHP’s introduction, they write
Knowledge is power, and it’s important for women and health care providers to be aware of the seven most effective contraceptive methods available in the US: tubal occlusion or ligation, vasectomy (for men), transcervical sterilization (Essure® micro-inserts), two reversible IUDs (Mirena® and Paragard® “Copper-T”) and a reversible implant (Implanon®). Most of these methods are hormone-free, although Mirena and Implanon do contain hormones. Other non-hormonal methods such as barrier and fertility-based awareness methods (Standard Days® and many others) also can be effective if they are used correctly and consistently, which often hinges on appropriate counseling and education. In the case of these less-effective methods, the guiding principle is that use of any method is better than use of no method at all, with its attendant 85 percent risk of unintended pregnancy.7