The XX Factor

Shutdown Looming, Republicans Spent the Weekend Trying to Cut off Your Contraception Access

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) speaks during the Exempt America from Obamacare rally on Capitol Hill. The “conscience clause” is his baby.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Republicans are conducting one of their semi-regular hostage crises, using the threat of a government shutdown in an attempt to stall Obamacare with the long-term hopes of killing it before the voters realize they like it. What’s their latest move? Republicans spent the weekend amending their “delay Obamacare” spending bill with a “conscience clause” to help employers substitute their conscience for your own when determining your contraception choices. The amendment creates a broad one-year exemption to a part of Obamacare that’s already gone into effect, which is the requirement that insurance plans offer certain kinds of preventive services, including contraception, without a co-pay. This amendment to the spending bill would allow your employer to cite religious or “moral” grounds to deny you the right to use your plan as you see fit. 

In addition to being catnip for the GOP’s base, the amendment, pushed by Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, is clearly designed to cut off large numbers of women from getting their contraception benefits, but it could be used to terminate any of the laundry list of women’s preventive services that are required by law to be offered co-pay-free. The amendment reflects an extremely creepy view of the employer-employee relationship, in which apparently your boss’ beliefs and views are supposed to be in the mix when you’re making personal decisions about how you have sex and procreate. 

This is not the first time Republicans have tried to hold our government and economy hostage with their misogynist obsessions—in a 2011 spending bill, the GOP threatened  to cut off family planning subsidies for places like Planned Parenthood. The good news is that, just as in 2011, there’s very little chance of this “conscience clause” becoming law. Even if Democrats were willing to accept the clause in order to avoid a government shutdown, the fact that the larger bill is about killing Obamacare means there’s little chance of it getting through the Senate, much less past the president. Barring some unforeseen last minute deal, the shutdown is happening. And right now, the larger threat to the contraception benefit—and more generally, to your right to federal protections that keep your boss out of your private business—comes from the Supreme Court

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the government shutdown.