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
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1737 GMT (0137 HKT)
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT