Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and three other congresswomen attended a special news conference Feb. 8, reacting to Republican Speaker John Boehner's harsh attack on the Obama administration's birth control policy.
Boehner vowed to overturn the policy, complaining that it was a violation of religious freedom because its coverage includes schools and hospitals with religious affiliation. He threatened legislative action if Obama did not rescind the policy. Other Republicans saw this as a political opening, and argued that this was a sensitive issue of "religious liberty."
Schakowsky, along with Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Lois Capps, D-Calif., and Gwen Moore, D-Wis., said at the press conference they supported the president's policy, explaining that it strikes a balance between religious and individual freedom.
Schakowsky said the policy exempts churches from providing birth control benefits for their workers.
As for religiously-connected hospitals and schools, she explained, "If they want to be part of the business world, then they have to follow the same rules as other businesses."
Capps and DeLauro outlined some of the benefits of the birth control decision, noting that it was based on scientific evidence, decreased infant mortality and unintended pregnancy, and would reduce the long-standing gender discrimination issues that women in health care face.
Surveys show, moreover, that 99 percent of women and 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control at one point in their lives.
And Boehner's assertion that "Americans of every faith and political persuasion" object to the policy is clearly untrue: Prior to this rule's approval, 28 states had passed their own version of the law.
Rep. Michael Quigley, D-Ill., said the ruling was a mainstream one, and that the Catholic Church ought to support it.
"The vast majority of Catholic women are on birth control, support birth control, and think it should be part of their health care plan. So, it just seems striking to me that someone would say this is a risky decision, because it's [actually] the right thing to do," Quigley said.
According to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, women who use birth control will save $600 a year once this policy goes into effect.
"The idea that birth control could be controversial in 2012 is outrageous," Schakowsky remarked. "Women's health care should not depend on who the boss is." Furthermore, she predicts a backlash among women if Republicans continue to attack this policy.
"It would be at their peril if they try to undo this," she concluded.
Photo: "U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky talks with Occupy Wall Street activists in Chicago." Jan Schakowsky official Flickr page