March 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm EST | by Leslie J. Calman
Women should make birth control decisions

The LGBT health movement, in which Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization is a proud pioneer, has long stood for equal access to health care for all. As a movement, we have fought and continue to fight hard for health care policies that are inclusive and respectful.

Right now, a battle is being waged over a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would provide contraception, without co-pay, to any woman with health insurance, regardless of who her employer is.

At first glance, access to birth control would not seem to be at the top of the lesbian health priority list — but think again.

Efforts to label some sexual practices immoral and to control sexuality are at the heart of right-wing efforts to give privilege to some people over others. Historically, that includes privileging men over women, and straight people over gay.

Although the Obama administration has made an exemption for churches, synagogues and other houses of worship that choose not to provide insurance that covers contraception, that’s not enough for social conservatives. They are telling women that if your boss has religious objections to contraception, your boss should be able to deny you insurance coverage for contraception. If you work for a religiously affiliated hospital or university and that institution objects to birth control, they get to control you.

Sound familiar? The LGBT health movement has worked hard to get into federal law a provision that hospitals can’t discriminate against our families when they visit us in the hospital or when we’ve given our partner or spouse legal decision-making power for us when we’re incapacitated. This is true even if the hospital leadership doesn’t “approve” of our relationships. Do you think that if the right wing wins this battle over whether women can be denied contraceptive coverage on religious grounds it won’t re-open the battle to deny LGBT people visitation and decision making on religious grounds?

As we used to say: same struggle, same fight.

LGBT people need to speak up loudly in support of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions for contraceptive coverage for every woman. Anything less, and we’re putting our heads in the sand.

I urge you to write to your federal representatives and to Secretary Sibelius and the White House and tell them you believe comprehensive insurance coverage for women must include coverage for contraception. Using or not using birth control should be up to a woman, not her employer.

Leslie J. Calman is executive director of the Mautner Project. Reach her at

  • You are painting with too broad of a brush. Independent polls reveal that LGBT rights, including gay marriage and civil unions, are supported by a majority of Catholics, most of whom are not “right wing.” American Catholics have a long history of supporting civil rights for minorities, working for social justice, actively opposing war, and caring for the most vulnerable in our society. But most Catholics, including many gay Catholics, do not view reproductive services as an LGBT issue. On the issue of the HHS mandate that requires religiously-affiliated employers (i.e., Catholic hospitals) to offer reproductive services for women, multiple polls have shown that a majority of Americans — and especially Catholic voters — support an exemption for these organizations. The issue, plain and simple, is that the HHS mandate encroaches on religious freedom by requiring religiously-affiliated health care providers to offer services that they morally oppose. The false dichotomy that you present in your article (that people who oppose government-mandated reproductive services also oppose LGBT equality) is not supported by the facts.

  • You’re an idiot. Why should the government use my money to pay for your birth control? Buy your own darned pills just like I buy my condoms. And, don’t use the Viagra-coverage argument; Viagra is to correct a medical condition. I agree with one statement you made: “…Using or not using birth control should be up to a woman, not her employer…”; the inconvenient part you left off is to conclude your sentence with “but at her expense.”

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