Friday, February 17, 2012

The War on Contraception

There are literally dozens of things that bother me about this week's battle on birth control in Congress. But as a law student, I'm more concerned about the effect this irrational, inane war on women's health will have on our work force. All compromises and politics aside, my biggest question is: where is HIPAA in all of this?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a federal act that governs health insurance plans of employers and establishes standards for providers. However, the most important part of HIPAA, in my opinion, is the barrier of privacy it affords between employers and employees in regards to workers' health. Employers, under HIPAA, are federally blocked from accessing medical records, payment information, etc., of their employees, strictly for policy reasons.

Can you imagine what would happen if your employer found out about your private, very personal health issues? Would they be inclined to retire you if you were on Plavix, question you if you took Viagra.....and fire you if you were on oral contraceptives? Would they deny you anti-depressives and tell you that they believe mental health problems are really demon possession?

If the current, Republican-dominated congressional hearings have their way, employers may be able to access your health records and deny you access and employment benefits. I'm not talking just churches here, and not even just religious-based universities, organizations, and hospitals. ANY employer! All the boss has to do is get religion to deny you your right to privacy and your right to medical care under the new healthcare act.

Religious "leaders," hand-selected by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who is leading the charge against women and their autonomy, have been crying afoul on President Obama's mandate that all employers must provide employees with birth control coverage. They claim that it is a violation of their First Amendment right to religious freedom, and the big, bad government is stomping all over that.

Okay, that's nice, but what about the FOURTEENTH Amendment and its Equal Protection clause? Last I checked, if your First Amendment rights trample on others' abilities to be treated as a normal human being, you keep your mouth shut and/or your religion to yourself. (See copyright laws, Engel v. Vitale, Lemon v. Kurtzman).

And did I mention that no Constitutional lawyers or women were allowed to testify at these hearings? Rep. Issa and his warmongering cronies apparently only want to hear one side of the argument - the side that is gunning for the female worker's body and autonomy.

When committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland asked Rep. Issa to include a certain female witness at the hearing, Issa refused and said that because "the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience,” a law student at George Washington University was unqualified to testify at his hearing.

In the Senate, it's Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (MO) leading the charge for an amendment (to the transportation act, no less!) that would allow employers to avoid providing health coverage on moral grounds. This transcends the abortion debate - if an employer doesn't like gays, interracial couples, your religion, whatever, Sen. Roy Blunt would grant them power to refuse you your health coverage! They're calling this a "religious freedom" issue, but it's really about your access to contraception.

Regardless of the reasons why you use it.

Regardless of HIPAA laws.

And regardless of the protections afforded to you by the Fourteenth Amendment and the Equal Protection clause.

If you're not pissed off yet, go watch a few more marathons of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills."

To rage, contact:
Rep. Darrell Issa 202-225-3906
Sen. Roy Blunt (202) 224-5721

To show your support, contact:
Sen. Claire McCaskill (202) 224-6154
Sen. Nancy Pelosi (202) 225-4965

And come join us Wednesday, February 22 as we protest at the home office of Sen. Roy Blunt, 7700 Bonhomme, Clayton from noon to 3 p.m. It's Ash Wednesday, and Sen. Blunt needs to repent of his sins against women!!