OB/GYN Corrects Bishop’s False Claim About How Contraceptives Work

In the Charlotte Observer, Dr. Jennifer H. Tang, a gynecologist in Chapel Hill and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, writes:

In his attack on the birth control rules, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has gone so far as to claim “the contraceptives mandated as ‘preventive services’ [to be covered by employers] will include abortifacients.” This is false. Contraceptives prevent pregnancies. They do not end them. Otherwise, they would be classified as abortifacients, not contraceptives.

This is such an important point, and one that is getting insufficient attention. The Bishops (along with their cobelligerents from other religions) have characterized contraceptives that are to be covered by insurance under the new Department of Health and Human Services regulations as “abortifacients” in an effort to broaden opposition to the rule beyond the narrow group of people opposed to contraception to people also opposed to abortion.

For example, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents both a Catholic and evangelical college in a lawsuit against HHS, headlined its press release on the day the Obama administration announced it would not carve out a broader exemption for religious institutions: “Obama Administration Refuses to Change Abortion-Drug Mandate.” In announcing its lawsuit on behalf of Colorado Christian University, Becket stated, “The Health and Human Services regulation mandates that all group health insurance plans must provide FDA-approved contraceptives at no charge to consumers, including the abortifacients Plan B (morning-after pill) and ella (week-after pill), and sterilization services. Many evangelical Christians do not share Catholics’ objection to contraception and sterilization, but most—including Colorado Christian—strongly oppose abortion, including abortifacient drugs.”

In a December 2011 letter to President Obama, 61 religious leaders expressed their opposition to the then-proposed rule. That letter, whose signers were mostly Christian but included a couple of Orthodox Jewish leaders, read, in part, “It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients.”

The new rule requires insurance coverage for contraceptives, not abortifacients. It’s deceptive to conflate the two in an effort to demonize the rule.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email