Written by Emily Mullins
The United Church of Christ is standing in solidarity with other faith-based groups in support of the mandatory contraception coverage offered by the Affordable Care Act. UCC President and General Minister, the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black is one of several leaders from the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish communities who want women to know they now have a choice of better health care.
"We are long past the time when women should be fully trusted to make decisions regarding their own health and well-being," said Black. "The Affordable Care Act makes sure all women, regardless of income, are in charge of their health."
Beginning Aug. 1, non-grandfathered health insurance plans are required by the Affordable Care Act to provide no-cost coverage for contraception and seven other preventive services for women, including breastfeeding support and counseling, domestic violence screening, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing, gestational diabetes screening, HIV screening and counseling, counseling for sexually transmitted infections, and well women visits.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice wants to call attention to the new benefits. The Rev. Harry Knox, RCRC president and CEO, said, "We are stepping up our responsibly as religious leaders to inform women of the benefits covered in this new law," said Knox. "The Affordable Care Act is a blessing because millions of women will now have access to contraception and protective services that will benefit them and their families."
Knox expects more people to gain access to these benefits around health insurance open enrollment periods Sept. 1, 2012 and Jan. 1, 2013. The RCRC and other religious groups plan to use the time until then to launch educational campaigns informing women of the legislation and how they can benefit from its provisions.
Black and Knox spoke about the new preventive health benefits for women during an audio press conference on July 30. Other participants in the call included Rabbi Jessica Oleon, Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rev. Cynthia Abrams, General Board of Church & Society, United Methodist Church; Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice; and Rev. Dr. Christine Wiley, Pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington D.C.
Participants of the press conference agree that opponents to this legislation are spreading inaccurate misconceptions about contraception and its uses, the most controversial aspect of the law. For example, many opponents believe emergency contraception is a form of abortion, which Knox said is scientifically untrue. Supporters of the act also agree that decisions that affect the health of American citizens should not be placed in the hands of the government or private employers, and that all women have the right to the information and the tools that can help them make educated decisions about their bodies.
"For more than 40 years, the UCC has affirmed that women and couples have the right to determine when to have children and how many to bring into the world," said Black. "These are very personal and private issues, but they become public when these protections are prohibited."