As a kind of counterpoint to House Speaker John Boehner’s vow to legislate away the Administration’s regulations on universal access to birth control, including for certain religiously affiliated institutions, five Senate Democrats will “reaffirm their commitment to ensuring that women have access to the full range of preventative health services covered under the Affordable Care Act, including birth control” in a 4pm ET press conference. In the advisory, put out by the Senate Democratic leadership, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will stand with the Administration’s initial ruling on the policy, which mandates that employers cover the full range of reproductive health services in their insurance policies with no co-pay, with a narrow religious exemption and conscience protections.
While a press conference is just that, coming on the heels of Boehner’s floor speech, this does represent an escalation. We’ll have to wait to see whether they echo the language of compromise, but it looks to me as if Democrats in the Senate are standing with the public and against any rollback on universal access. And it’s worth noting that Murray is a member of the Senate leadership, the head of the DSCC, the election arm for Senate Democrats.
Also today, the women’s campaign group EMILYs List sent out their pitch to tell the White House to stand strong on these provisions. Here’s an excerpt from the email from Stephanie Shriock, the President of EMILYs List:
We need your help right now. Right wing extremists are up in arms, deluging the White House with messages telling President Obama to reverse his (correct!) decision to ensure that all women have access to contraception, without a copay, no matter where they work.
President Obama is under tremendous pressure to revise his decision, and we cannot allow conservative activists and Catholic church leaders who oppose access to contraception to be the loudest voices in the room. We must make sure that he knows we are standing strong with him.
It is a simple fact: virtually all women use birth control. Contraception saves lives, prevents unintended pregnancies, improves outcomes for children, and — by the way — reduces abortions. The Affordable Care Act guarantees access to birth control, defining it as a preventive health benefit. The birth control coverage benefit is one of the single biggest advancements for women’s health in years.
This makes it politically difficult for the White House to roll back this element of his signature piece of legislation, in an election year, with all the relevant groups watching and Democrats in the Senate moving to their side. You have EMILYs List saying that the core of our democracy is at stake on these issues. That’s hard to explain away.