Religious Leaders Accuse Conservatives of Misleading Public on Contraception

The Rev. Harry Knox, the new president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, hit opposition to the Affordable Care Act with some harsh words on Monday, at an RCRC-hosted press conference launching a “celebration and education campaign for contraceptive coverage.”

In a statement, Knox called opponents of contraceptive coverage “false prophets,” accusing them of “misleading the public about health care reform and especially about contraception.”

“The Catholic bishops have been from early in the debate,” Knox said to RD. “Now Wheaton College executives have decided to enter the legal fray… spending their donor dollars and a great deal of their time in order to do that.” (Wheaton College, the prominent evangelical school in Illinois, became the latest institution to sue the Obama administration over the contraceptin coverage requirement.)

“Unfortunately they violated one of the primary dictates of our faith… which is that we tell the truth.”

Knox called contraceptive coverage with no co-pays a moral imperative. His rejoinder to conservative Catholics and evangelical claims that the ACA attacks religious freedom: “It is these groups that seek to restrict the religious liberties of individual employees.” 

Ninety-eight percent of women of all religions use contraception at some point in their lives, Knox noted. 

“I respect the right of these groups to express their views,” he said. “But I draw the line at what they are actually doing—substituting religious beliefs for contemporary science and then claiming their religious freedom is being violated.”

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, called the campaign “heartening, because it tells us Catholics that we are not alone.” Ninety-eight percent of Catholic sexually active women have used birth control other than church-approved methods. 

O’Brien argued against the idea that Catholic leaders and their allies are merely fighting for their own freedom of conscience. “The misuse of the term ‘conscience’ by the bishops may be their most disingenuous deviation from common understanding yet. Catholics believe that each person has a conscience and a viable and personal inner core that informs our decision making and compels each of us to act,” he said. “They will not rest until every institution—religious, secular, for-profit, non-profit, Taco Bell or Catholic diocese—is allowed to refuse contraception to its employees.”

These religious leaders will begin their celebration and education campaign on August 1, the date that non-grandfathered insurance plans will become required to provide contraception coverage with no co-pays—along with other women’s health services—when their plan years renew. The coalition plans to focus outreach towards faith communities and congregations by providing bulletin inserts, and information about new health care coverage that religious leaders can share with community members during individual counseling, for example.

Members of the United Church of Christ, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church also spoke in favor of the legislation, and in support of the campaign.

“We hope that we can help women and men understand what’s available to them now and to ask for those things when they come to open enrollment periods with their employers,” said Knox. While the ruling comes into effect in August, many congregants will begin to see their new health care benefits later in the year or even January, when their employers enter into open enrollment periods, he explained.



The Guttmacher Institute also spoke out against anti-choice lobby groups today, with a brightly-colored YouTube video. The video details the benefits of no-cost accessible contraception for American women, which it calls “essential preventive health care,” and says that the new federal health care reform law is “good news:”

But “some are trying to roll back this major gain,” the Institute said. “That would be a huge loss for American women and families.”

“Women whose pregnancies are planned are more likely to receive timely prenatal care,” said the Institute. They are also less likely to smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy, and more likely to breastfeed.

Women who use contraception consistently and correctly account for only 5 percent of all intended pregnancies every year, preventing abortion. The other 95 percent of unintended pregnancies happen to those who don’t use contraception, or use it incorrectly, the Institute said.