ORLANDO, Fla. - In the wake of a GOP-induced controversy over contraceptive rights and health care, the AFL-CIO has stepped forward to defend women's access to contraception, "regardless of where they work."
The resolution, pushed by the Coalition of Labor Union Women, was passed at the federation's executive council meeting here this week. It reads, in part, that "denial of contraceptive coverage is seen as discrimination against women and an attack on workers' right to basic health coverage" under the new health care law.
The labor movement has waded into the contraceptive rights controversy, for the first time ever, after a furor erupted over an Obama administration decision that said that institutions - though not churches - run by religious organizations must nonetheless provide contraceptive coverage to women through the institutions' health care plans.
But complaints, mostly from the GOP and the Catholic Church , arose that the regulation - part of a set of federal rules making contraceptive coverage part of basic health care under the new health care law - would force institutions to provide the health care coverage even when it was against their religious principles.
To solve that problem, the administration said the institutions' insurers - not the protesting institutions, such as hospitals and schools-must pay for contraceptive coverage for their female workers.
The AFL-CIO's March 14 resolution came to the defense of female workers:
"The right to quality health care has deteriorated into an attack on the character of the women who want nothing more than to have a personal decision in the matter," the resolution said. "Contraception is not only important in helping women and men plan their families, it is also used to treat or prevent many health conditions that affect women, including reducing their risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancers."
"All women should have access to quality health care at a reasonable cost that is not determined by political agendas," the federation declared.
The health care law provides that coverage, but "efforts are being taken that would restrict a woman's ability" to get it, they said. It did not name the authors and sponsors of those efforts, but the campaign for restrictions has been led by the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the so-called "social issues" voters of the GOP.
Congressional Republicans have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to ban health care coverage of female contraception. Huge majorities of voters in both parties, plus independents, favor insurance coverage of female contraception.
Photo: At the "Walk in My Shoes, Hear Our Voice" protest, March 12, at the state Capitol in Atlanta. The rally came after the Senate passed measures banning abortion coverage under state employees' health care plans and exempting religious health care providers from having to cover birth control. Several women's groups and Occupy Atlanta rallied in support of these rights for all Georgia women. Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP