Skip to main content

In shutdown, an attack on women's health

By Cecile Richards, Special to CNN
October 1, 2013 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
Sen. Barbara Boxer explains how the shutdown bill would allow companies to deny women coverage provided in the ACA.
Sen. Barbara Boxer explains how the shutdown bill would allow companies to deny women coverage provided in the ACA.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cecile Richards: House took its 43rd vote trying to kill the Affordable Care Act
  • Included provision to let employers and insurers refuse women's health coverage
  • Richards: Women could lose coverage for birth control, HPV testing, other services
  • She says Congress should stop pushing an extreme, unpopular agenda and fix economy

Editor's note: Cecile Richards is president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

(CNN) -- Instead of keeping the government running and focusing on the economy and other pressing issues facing the country, the House leadership has decided to play politics with women's health and economic stability.

In its 43rd vote to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the House has shut down the government to delay the law's implementation until 2015. It is a desperate attack that could leave millions of people without health coverage.

But a small group of far-right members of the House pushed through a provision that goes even further, passing an amendment that would allow employers and insurance companies to refuse to cover women's preventive health care because they have a personal "moral" objection.

Cecile Richards
Cecile Richards

This would include birth control, HPV testing, breast-feeding services and counseling for domestic violence. Any employer or insurance company could refuse to cover them, and women would have no recourse. It's a clause that could easily be abused by employers and insurers. And the amendment only covers the women's preventive benefit -- employers would not be able to refuse to cover preventive care specific to men for "moral" reasons. But

This is from the same House Republican leaders who tried to shut the government down in 2011 over funding for Planned Parenthood's cancer screenings, birth control and other preventive health care services and have tried dozens of times since then to block women from making their own personal medical decisions.

Shutdown: Day 1
Obama blasts one political 'faction'
What Obamacare means for you

This unprecedented and ongoing attack on women's health is out of touch with the needs of millions of women and is deeply unpopular with the American public.

Seven in 10 Americans believe that health insurance companies should cover the full cost of birth control, just as they do for other preventive services. These policies are working.

Already, 27 million women across the country have been able to receive preventive health care without a co-pay, and an estimated 47 million will benefit when the law takes full effect.

These investments in women's health services are not only providing women with more control over their health and their own family planning, but they are also a great deal for taxpayers. According to research released by the Guttmacher Institute this summer, for every $1 we invest in birth control services, we save nearly $6 in the long term.

It's a smart policy for the health of women and for our nation's economy. This is why earlier this year, Planned Parenthood members and our allies submitted more than 350,000 comments to the Department of Health and Human Services in support of the benefit. These comments came from women and men in all 50 states, and we continue to hear from women every day who are already benefiting from birth control with no co-payss.

We hear from women such as Ariel of Ridgewood, New Jersey, a 23-year-old who wrote to us to say that she just married "the love of my life" and plans to have children one day -- when she and her new husband are ready. They both have "piles of student loans" to pay first, and she can barely afford birth control if it weren't covered. Ariel and others like her will suffer if this narrow group of GOP members of Congress succeed in their crusade to keep women from having access to birth control and other preventive care.

Although it's not the first time they've tried, it's alarming how far some members of the GOP will go to attack the women's preventive benefit and the ACA itself.

As the leading women's health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood has fought hard to protect this benefit from the beginning because we know that birth control is basic, preventive health care for women, and it is a key economic issue for women and their families.

The country wants Congress to focus on jobs and the economy, not on pushing an extreme agenda against women's access to health care.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Cecile Richards.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT