My response to the question above. What’s yours?

If President Obama caves to the Catholic Bishops on contraceptive coverage, especially on the heels of his recent caving on Plan B emergency contraception, he is toast with the wide spectrum of progressive and middle-of-the-road women who elected him.

If he, on the other hand, engages this controversy wisely, he can recast the debate over contraception properly into one about women’s moral and human right to make their own childbearing decisions, as well as one essential to the health of women and children. In so doing, he will be a hero to the 99% of American women, including 98% of Catholics, who use birth control at some time during their lives to responsibly plan and space their children. And well over 75% believe that contraceptive coverage should be mandated in insurance coverage, as it currently is in 28 states and the Federal employees health plan, in addition to being the standard of care in health insurance in general.

The right is trying inaccurately (deviously?) to create a religious freedom issue with a dash of the dreaded abortion debate thrown in for good measure. Let’s get this straight: no one is trying to force religious institutions that primarily serve their own flock to do anything against their consciences. Those institutions are free to do whatever their faith dictates.

Catholic schools serving primarily Catholic students with primarily Catholic staff using private money are different from large public institutions such as hospitals that are run by Catholics but serve a broad range of the taxpaying public with a broad religious spectrum of staff and use billions of federal dollars to do so (think, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal program and research grants, etc.). Those institutions should no way be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage because they are essentially secular institutions despite being stewarded by religious orders.

But look further behind the curtain, the Bishops and anti-women’s rights members of congress are trying to roll back the clock FOR ALL THE REST OF US on existing laws that rightly require health plans to cover contraception if they cover other prescription drugs.

We women are the 99% on this one, and we’d better speak up or we are in great danger of losing all the hard fought gains that were made during the last two decades to include basic contraceptive care in health plans. It’s only fair, and it’s the standard of good health care to boot.

Read the original post on Politico Arena here.

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In many ways, today is like where I came into national leadership. It was 1996, after the1994 Gingrich revolution Republican sweep of Congress, in a huge Tea Party-like backlash against the progressive initiatives of President Bill Clinton’s first term.

While I’m processing the key question in my mind–why do the Democrats never learn????–I want to share questions that Political Voices of Women’s Pamela Kemp put forward last night:

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As About.com‘s Linda Lowen reports, President Obama has now basically implemented the Stupak amendment banning the new insurance exchanges from covering abortion even if the premium is privately paid. I’m a little out of joint by the outraged protestations of pro-choice organizations. Because here’s the reality:

Outraged about Obama’s de facto implementation of the Stupak amendment? Well get this: They have also excluded birth control from the first iteration of the new health plan rules! It is incredibly naive to assume, as Dana Goldstein suggests in the Daily Beast, that these new rules will be amended to include birth control. That is unless very big and very smart campaign is mounted.

Women are 52% of the voters and up to 60% of voters who support Democrats. We have the power to rise up and hold Obama to his campaign promises. And now is the time to do it. No excuses and no fair complaining about the result if we fail to do so.

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Young adults ages 19 to 29 make up less than 15 percent of the total US population, yet they comprise a staggering 30 percent of the 46 million uninsured and have the highest rate of uninsurance among any age group. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of this group—88 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund —support health care reform.

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Had I been a member of Congress, I would have pressed the “yes” lever for the health-reform bill when it came down to the vote for final passage. It was incredibly important that we start somewhere to make health care accessible and affordable to all Americans. And we can celebrate, as Ms. magazine recounts in “What the Health Care Bill Means for Women,” that contraceptives will be covered, gender rating that discriminates against women has been eliminated, and preventive services such as pap smears will be covered without co-pay under the new plan.

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Many Americans assume the new health care reform act will benefit mostly the poor and uninsured and hurt everyone else, according to polls. As Matt Yglesias wrote, “Basically, people see this as a bill that will take resources from people who have health insurance and give it to people who don’t have health insurance.” Those who still oppose the reform say that people ought to pay for their own health care.

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Yesterday’s wrap up report of Senate action from NFPRHA-worth a read to see how the meat grinder of legislation works, and how detrimental the 60-vote rule is to getting anything done. And bless Frank Lautenberg! He just never stops.

December 16, 2009, 5:00 p.m. (EST)

Today, the Senate continued debate on its health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590). Last night an amendment offered by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to provide for the importation of prescription drugs did not garner the necessary 60 votes for passage, so while the vote in favor was 56 — 43, the amendment failed. The Lautenberg amendment was intended to improve upon a similar amendment offered by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) which also failed. Like the Lautenberg amendment, the Dorgan amendment did not get the necessary 60 votes, with the vote in favor only being 51 — 48. A motion by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) to recommit the bill (effectively killing the bill by sending it back to the Finance Committee) also failed 45 — 54. An alternative to the Crapo motion, offered by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) which would protect middle class families from tax increases, passed 97 — 1.

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Peggy Simpson reported this for the Women’ Media Center; it’s reprinted here with permission.
At a critical moment for health care reform, Townsend says it is essential for religious progressives to speak up.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend broadened the Kennedy family’s dispute with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Tuesday night.

She elaborated on an op-ed she wrote for Politico.com criticizing the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ opposition to health care reform unless an unprecedented expansion of restrictions against abortion is included. “I don’t think the bishops should be allowed to do that,” she said Tuesday night. “I think we should be speaking out (against them).”

Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, also said it was crucial for progressives from within religious groups who had fought for women’s rights and gay rights to be “more articulate” about their faith.

“We progressive religious people have our backs against the wall. We allowed it to happen,” she said.

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