Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Don't return to '50s

Posted on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stinging decision that established America's women as second-class citizens. In the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court found that bosses can refuse to provide legally mandated insurance coverage for birth control solely based on their religious views.

The idea that birth control is controversial, immoral or anything other than basic preventive care reflects the choice we have in the 2014 elections: Do we want to elect candidates who will fight for women's access to basic health care? Or do we want to elect candidates who will support policies that would take us back to the 1950s?

The Supreme Court's majority opinion was signed by five men who have never had to worry about paying for birth control, an unplanned pregnancy or how family planning will impact their next paycheck.

In the entire majority opinion's 49 pages of text, the word "women" was used only 13 times—underscoring how little regard these justices and the elected officials who agree with them have for basic women's health care.

It's no accident, then, that the three women on the Supreme Court dissented against this ruling in the strongest possible terms, calling it "a minefield" and a decision of "startling breadth." They wrote at length of the economic hardship created when women are forced to pay for contraception out of pocket, and the uncertainty created—both in the workplace and the home—when access to this care is called into question.

The Hobby Lobby decision underscores what we've already known for so long: Women's rights are under attack, and it's increasingly important that we elect candidates who are willing to stand up and fight for our values.

These attacks are far out of step with the beliefs held by most Americans—studies have repeatedly found that support for birth control and expanded access to contraception are mainstream values.

At some point in their lives, 99 percent of sexually active women will use some form of birth control. Of those who use the pill, nearly 60 percent use it for medical reasons other than contraception. Use of the pill can reduce the likelihood of ovarian cancer by as much as 50 percent, and it's effective in treating conditions like endometriosis, premenstrual pain and migraines. Across all demographics and ethnicities—including Catholics, millennials and baby boomers—support for birth control is strong. 

All of which means that the candidates and elected officials who want to roll back access to this important preventive care aren't just outside the mainstream, they're simply too extreme.

Across the country, politicians running for office want to go even further than the Supreme Court did this week—working to repeal the entire preventive benefit which also guarantees women can no longer be charged more for health insurance or denied coverage for so-called "pre-existing" conditions like domestic abuse or pregnancy. Many of these candidates also support extreme and dangerous so-called "personhood" measures, which if enacted, could interfere with personal, private decisions about birth control and fertility treatment. These battles are being fought in states across the country, from Texas to Colorado to North Carolina to here in Montana.

Our message to these candidates is clear: We've had enough. We'll be doing everything we can in Montana to educate voters about the candidates who support access to women's basic preventive care, like Sen. John Walsh. We will also be warning them about candidates like Rep. Steve Daines, who would roll back the clock on access. Daines sided with corporate special interests as he supported the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision. Daines has made continual efforts to take away a women's right to make her own private health care decisions, outlaw common forms of birth control, put an end to prevention efforts and allow the IRS to audit victims of rape.

With the help of dedicated supporters and volunteers across the state, we'll be knocking on doors, making phone calls and doing everything necessary to ensure that we elect candidates who will reject this extreme anti-woman agenda and stand up for mainstream values.

In the 2012 elections, we achieved great things when women stood together and stood up for access to basic preventive care like contraception.

Now, in 2014, we have another opportunity, as well as an obligation, to send the clear message that women are watching... and we will be voting.

Jill Baker

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana

Great Falls

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