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Don't threaten women's health care

By Felicity Huffman, Special to CNN
February 29, 2012 -- Updated 2214 GMT (0614 HKT)
Most people support free access to contraceptive health care, according to polls.
Most people support free access to contraceptive health care, according to polls.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Felicity Huffman: Congress is trying to eviscerate women's health care
  • Poll: Voters, including Catholics, support free access to contraception coverage
  • Huffman: Contraception isn't just a basic health care issue; it's also an economic issue
  • She says politicians should be mindful that women will not tolerate threats to their health

Editor's note: Felicity Huffman was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in "Transamerica." She received an Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award for her starring role in ABC's "Desperate Housewives." 

(CNN) -- Congress is attempting to eviscerate women's health care. Like many women across America, I am outraged.

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on legislation proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt that would allow employers to deny coverage for health care services that are considered morally objectionable.

On February 16, Republicans in the House of Representatives held a hearing designed to undermine President Barack Obama's decision to guarantee women free access to contraception health care regardless of their workplace.

Felicity Huffman
Felicity Huffman

Fair enough. We all have the right to disagree and fight for our beliefs. But by definition, a hearing is an inquiry into many sides of an issue with testimony from various points of views. But mark this: The Republicans did not have a single woman to testify in support of the contraception mandate. That is not a hearing; that is a sham.

Mitt Romney, a front-runner in the Republican primaries, has expressed support for life at conception legislation that could outlaw common forms of contraception, which would adversely affect many women. Romney has also vowed to end family planning funding that America's most financially disadvantaged women rely on for cancer screening, contraception and other basic reproductive health care needs.

Voters, including Catholics, overwhelmingly support health care coverage for contraception. The truth is women use contraception not only as a way to prevent unintended pregnancies, but also to improve their health and the health of their families. Increased access to contraception is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality. It can also protect women against debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

But contraception isn't just a basic health care issue for women, it's also an economic issue. Today, many women pay $15 to $50 a month for contraception, even with insurance. That's as much as $600 a year, money that many American families are struggling to find.

In a recent interview on MSNBC, Foster Friess, a prominent supporter of Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, said, "On this contraceptive thing, my gosh. ... You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly." Does this man have no wife, daughter or sister? I pray that his comment, which might conceivably be pawned off as a joke if it were not so dangerous, does not represent the perspective of the people in government who have the power to determine women's health choices. But judging by some of the proposed legislation floating around, Friess is hardly alone in his view.

I respectfully ask members of Congress to not be blinded by the desires of a small but vocal anti-contraception community that could put the physical and financial health of millions of American women and families on the line.

Thankfully, President Obama has stood firmly behind women's health care issues by supporting coverage for contraception and reaffirming commitment to organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Anyone seeking office would be wise to take heed that women are watching and we will not tolerate political rhetoric that threatens our health, safety and well-being.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Felicity Huffman.

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