Obama holds the line on birth control

In a victory for anxious pro-choicers, anti-contraceptive groups won't get to deny coverage to their employees

Published January 20, 2012 5:30PM (EST)

                              (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=91104299'>Calek</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(Calek via Shutterstock)

It makes for a good joke, but when it comes to making his case to women voters this year, President Obama is going to need more than an (admittedly awesome) video of him sexily crooning Al Green.

Which is why it's good news for everyone that the administration isn't going to cave to antiabortion institutions' pressure to let them deny birth control coverage to employees covered by their insurance. Today, it announced that there will be no wider exemption for those groups, only a one-year waiver they can apply for while figuring out how to comply with the law.

To recap: the Affordable Care Act requires that "preventative care" be fully covered, with no co-pay, under new insurance plans, and the Department of Health and Human Services accepted recommendations that put all forms of contraception in that category. If you care about lowering the rate of unintended pregnancies, making birth control affordable and accessible should be one of your major goals, right? Wrong. Catholic and other antiabortion organizations immediately raised a stink, demanding a broader opt-out from the new regulations, since they wouldn't qualify under the limited "religious organization" exemption. In other words, they wanted to deny birth control coverage to the women and men who work for Catholic hospitals or universities, regardless of their personal views on contraception.

Pro-choicers were worried that they would get their way, particularly when Archbishop Timothy Dolan sounded triumphant about a one-on-one meeting with the president. And they were outraged when the same Department of Health and Human Services overruled the FDA on a decision that would make it easier for younger women to access emergency birth control. But it looks like sense and public health -- and a little caterwauling -- prevailed this time.

By Irin Carmon

Irin Carmon is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @irincarmon or email her at icarmon@salon.com.

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Barack Obama Birth Control Contraception