Seattle's News Elixir

President Obama is reportedly leaning toward caving to pressure from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to eliminate birth control coverage under the health-care reform law for female employees at all religious and "quasi-religious" institutions. The exemption from the law, which would impact millions of women working for hospitals, churches, social service agencies, and universities across the country, is reportedly payback for the bishops' support for Obama's Affordable Health Care Act, which already includes language barring not just the federal government, but the newly created health-care exchanges, from paying for abortions.

Without coverage, birth control can cost as much as $60 a month, or $720 a year.

In the US, 99 percent of women---and 98 percent of Catholic women---say they've used some form of birth control that is banned by the Catholic Church, which only allows the "rhythm method" (periodic abstention from sex). The bishops, in other words, are trying to impose restrictions on millions of women across the country that they can’t even get their own church members to follow.

Obviously, the bishops are entitled to lobby for whatever they want. But that doesn't mean Obama has to listen. As a president who got elected with overwhelming support from women (female voters made up 53 percent of Obama's support base in 2008, and 70 percent of single women voted for him), Obama should ask himself which group is more important: The people who put him into office, or 271 celibate men who want to take away women's right to make decisions about their own health?
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