Last updated: July 24. 2013 1:39PM - 210 Views
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PDT Staff Writer

As of Wednesday, millions of American women will no longer pay for birth control pills, pap smears or mammograms — not even a co-pay. Women also have the right to free breast-feeding support, supplies for pregnancy-related diabetes, also known as gestational diabetes, and even screening for domestic violence.

“Women who were not able to get it (birth control) in the past, this is a huge component for them,” Raylene Maloy, Director of Nursing at the Portsmouth City Health Department, said. “This is eight key health services for women. It’s free of charge and with no deductible or co-pay if they have insurance, such as contraceptives, counseling, diabetes screening, human papaloma testing, counseling for STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) and testing for that. It also has breast-feeding supplies support, domestic violence, things that, in the past, you would have to have a co-pay or a deductible, are now going to be free. So this has a huge impact for women for preventative care.”

Maloy said the Health Department will make a concerted effort to inform the public as to the new provisions.

“We’re going to make an effort,” Maloy said. “We’re doing it with the county fair, and with the Rally For Recovery. We’re going to encourage the community to sign up to start going to our (Health) Coalition meetings and become involved, because there needs to be more of the public in there - not just agencies and workers. So if they get involved they will know more about what is going on, how to get these services, how to access them. And then all of us are going to be able to expand what services we offer to these women.”

Maloy said the Portsmouth City Health Department is already a provider for most health insurance plans and Medicaid.

“We’re already set up to do that, and we have a full-time nurse practitioner, now who can see the full spectrum,” Maloy said. “So this is just wonderful. We’re able to grow. And we’ve got a health care component to help us grow with that.”

Not everyone is happy with the way the component has been mandated. Count among those, Father Adam Streitenberger of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Portsmouth.

“My understanding is that what just went into effect was just for the individual business owners,” Streitenberger said. “The religious institutes such as the Catholic hospitals and universities and social work places, I think theoretically they still have a year. And, of course, congregations are exempt, but it’s a violation of our conscience and our freedom of religion because it is mandating and pay for something which we find to be immoral.”

Streitenberger said the issue goes deeper, because he says the Obama administration is defining what incorporates the practice of religion.

“They say, ‘congregations in places of worship, those are free, those are exempt from this,’ but our Catholic understanding, and I think everyone’s, even atheist’s understanding of religion, is, religion is not just worship. It’s also the charitable work that is part of that. So in the Catholic understanding, our practice of our religion requires us to educate people. It requires of us to take care of the sick. It requires of us to take care of the poor. So when the government says taking care of the poor or educating people or helping the sick is not an authentic practice of one’s religion, then its telling us what is and what isn’t part of the practice of our religion.”

Streitenberger said the mandate says religion can only be practiced in the church, and the practice is not done in civil society by outreach programs.

Streitenberger also took on the use of contraception.

“The administration says this is a war on women’s health,” Streitenberger said. “First of all I don’t think that contraception is necessarily a good thing for women’s health. Obviously I’m not saying they ought to have multiple children, there should be family planning. But we don’t know all of the medical effects of contraception and the pill. One of the things that should irritate everyone is that there are clear scientific and medical studies that show’s there is an abortifacient affect with the pill. Because if conception has happened, part of the effect of the pill is that it strips the uterine lining, which means that if conception has happened then the embryo is basically stripped out with the rest of the uterine lining. So it does have an abortifacient effect. The Plan B RU-486 is nothing more than an upped-up dose of the common birth control pill.”

Plan B/RU-486 is commonly known at the “morning after pill.

The leader of a Catholic organization and a prominent women’s group both expressed initial support for the changes announced by President Obama that - “religious liberty will be protected and a law that requires free preventative care will not discriminate against women.”

“The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed,” said Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals that had fought against the birth control requirement.

“We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth control benefits,” Cecile Richards, the women’s group president, said.

Seven attorneys general trying to block the federal health care law’s requirement for contraception coverage saw their lawsuit dismissed last week by a federal judge who ruled they didn’t have standing to file it. The suit was filed on behalf of Ohio, Nebraska, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Plaintiffs also included three Nebraska-based employers affiliated with the Catholic Church, a nun and a missionary.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com.

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