A win for women

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius today announced an important win for women everywhere: Religious organizations will have to comply with the federal rule that they offer no-cost preventive health services to women, including contraceptive care.

In August 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to require most health insurance plans to cover preventive services for women, including contraceptive services without charging a co-pay, co-insurance, or a deductible. However, the announcement included exemptions for religious organizations, meaning that certain religiously affiliated employers could offer health plans that didn’t cover basic preventive health services for women.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National Center for Transgender Equality, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies in the women’s rights movement and called on the president and Secretary Sebelius not to allow religious exemptions for basic health care services. Here is what we said to the president:

As advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, we know the damage that religious refusal policies can cause public health programs. So-called “conscience clauses” privilege private beliefs over evidence-based best practices in public health, allowing providers to pick and choose the prevention, treatment, care and support services they wish to offer people based on their own beliefs instead of proven methods. Enacting such clauses eliminates safe guards that should ensure any population, particularly those who are most vulnerable, get the services they need.

The Task Force applauds the president and Secretary Sebelius for making the right decision — that decisions about health care needs should be made between a doctor and the patient, and based on science and the patient’s needs.