Opinion: HHS Secretary Celebrates Chance To Deny Women Contraceptive Access

It is not unusual for one specific government action to signify an important shift in a nation’s agenda, but on Thursday there were two acts that portend danger for all Americans. However, one demographic in particular is going to impact more than all others combined.

Of course, when the House Republicans narrowly passed an alleged healthcare bill to replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), it was a sign that government by Republican means the nation no longer cares about the health or the lives of its population. In fact, what House Republicans demonstrated is that they are the polar opposite of “pro-life.”

The other act, one that was certainly announced in concert with the draconian House healthcare legislation, was Trump’s gift to the religious right targeting the same demographic as the Republican healthcare bill. One thing many Americans fail to remember about the Affordable Care Act was that it protected women from inequity in the healthcare insurance industry; it is likely one driving reason pro-life Republican patriarchs lusted to repeal it.

While Trump and House Republicans were holding a victory celebration at taking away healthcare from tens-of-millions of Americans, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was beside himself with excitement at the prospect of denying women access to contraception coverage. When Trump signed the theocratic edict on religious freedom, he not only gave Republicans another dark money outlet and the clergy free money to preach Republican policies from the pulpit, he granted a religious exemption to “the persecuted faithful” to deny contraceptive coverage for their employees.

Immediately after godless Trump signed the Catholic-evangelical edict fundamentally dismantling what was left of the religious clauses of the First Amendment, HHS Secretary Tom Price rushed to issue a statement “saying he was pleased to have the opportunity to rethink the [contraception coverage] mandate.” Price knows that with the mandate omitted from the Republican healthcare bill, and coupled with Trump’s gift of religious domination to evangelicals, the chance to force millions of women into perpetual pregnancy grew an order of magnitude.

Price likely heard, and agreed with, Trump’s statement that poor depraved evangelicals’ “long ordeal will soon be over.” Evangelicals and Catholics closely tied to the Vatican feel persecuted because they cannot control every woman in America’s reproductive choices; what Trump described as their “long ordeal.” Chief among their complaints was the inability to deny women access to contraceptives that was the impetus of the Hobby Lobby case.

Price, a raging evangelical fanatic said in his press release:

We welcome today’s executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to reexamine the previous administration’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services mandate, and commend President Trump for taking a strong stand for religious liberty.

We will be taking action in short order to follow the President’s instruction to safeguard the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who provide health insurance to their employees.”

In 2012, Price regarded the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide contraception coverage in health plans “a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.” One reminds preacher Price that regardless his bastardized version of Christianity, the contraception mandate doesn’t require or force him or his fanatical Republican brethren to use IUDs, diaphragms, birth control pills or a stinking condom; those are all personal choices.

Add to that theocratic abomination granting evangelicals the right to deny contraception coverage, the Republican healthcare bill allows individual states to eliminate coverage for essential health benefits like hospitalization as well as “revoke protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”

Those two actions will, as Laurel Raymond at ThinkProgress noted, “be particularly devastating for women.” Women likely recall that prior to Obamacare’s implementation and the requirement that insurance plans cover essential health benefits, it was more common than not for healthcare insurance not to cover maternity and neonatal care. That care is often “extremely expensive” and a crushing expense for individuals or families without healthcare insurance. If Trump-Republicans are successful with their atrocious healthcare debacle, and there is no reason to believe they won’t be, even with healthcare insurance maternity and neonatal care will likely not be covered.

As noted in the ThinkProgress piece, between the Trump religious order and Republican healthcare bill, many women are not going to be able to afford birth control at all. According to a study last month by researchers at the polling firm PerryUndem:

One in seven women said that if they had to pay any money for their birth control at all, they wouldn’t be able to afford it. One in three said that they could afford to pay only $10 or less.”

That cost restriction is precisely what the control-freaks in the religious right and the Vatican are counting on to deny women access to birth control and force a significant percentage of over half the population to become perpetual birth machines or be celibate. It is worth noting that during the religious Republican attack on the contraception mandate a few years ago, the mindset among the religious Republicans was that women were forbidden to have consequence free sexual relations.

All Americans will feel the deleterious effects of a Republican- rushed healthcare bill and few Americans would disagree, but women are in for a world of medical and economic hurt and will likely be worse off than before the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. But combined with Trump’s religious order, particular the theocratic directive to HHS to “safeguard the deeply held religious beliefs of business owners” in regard to birth control, women are being assaulted from all directions as is the normal course of action for conservatives.

Many Americans were aware that a Trump administration with a Republican-controlled Congress and Supreme Court was going to be devastatingly bad news for women on many counts. However, the fact that HHS Secretary Price was giddy about a religious edict giving him and his kind purview over women’s reproductive choices, and the authority to impose their religious will on women, means there is a lot more at stake than just a ban on contraceptives, By the time religious Republicans have installed the evangelical theocracy, contraceptives will be the least of women’s worries.

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