HHS director accuses Republicans of demeaning 'women's health'

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius / Credit: Eric Bridiers, U.S. Mission Geneva
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius / Credit: Eric Bridiers, U.S. Mission Geneva


Health and Human Services director Kathleen Sebelius accused Republicans of stifling women's health by opposing Planned Parenthood funding as well as contraception coverage under insurance plans.

Congressional GOP leaders “want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America,” Sebelius said at a NARAL Pro-Choice America event in Chicago on Oct. 5.

“We’ve come a long way in women’s health over the last few decades, but we are in a war,” she told a crowd of around 300 at the 17th annual “Chicago Power of Choice” luncheon.

Sebelius has faced intense criticism in recent weeks from religious leaders after she announced federal rules that will require nearly all new health plans, including those of most religious agencies, to cover all government-approved methods of contraception as well as surgical sterilization.

The guidelines, which were created in response to the 2010 health care law, require new health insurance plans to cover what it calls “women’s preventive services.” These include breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.

The U.S. bishops, 19 Catholic universities and colleges and numerous other Catholic organizations have reacted strongly against the proposition.

Religious exemptions under the new rules are so narrow that they could force Catholic charities, health care providers and educational institutions to cover services they regard as immoral, warned Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas.

The only situation where Catholic institutions would be free to act in accord with their religious beliefs is “if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics,” said the cardinal, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ committee on pro-life activities.

Around 40 protestors from the local Pro-Life Action League took to the Chicago streets outside the luncheon on Oct. 5 with graphic photos of aborted babies and signs reading, “NARAL: Stop the War on Unborn Women.”

Sebelius made reference to the demonstrators in her address, calling the protestors' display “a discomfort when you’re coming to lunch.”

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