Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback said women who want health care coverage that includes birth control but work for employers who oppose birth control based on religious reasons should go work elsewhere.
Brownback's comment was made Monday during a call-in show on C-SPAN in response to a comment from a woman from Osawatomie, who said women's rights were being trampled in Kansas. The caller criticized Brownback for opposing President Barack Obama's position that contraceptives should be provided as part of the federal health reform law.
Brownback disagreed with the caller, saying that Obama’s decision was infringing on basic religious freedoms.
Obama had issued a rule to require employers to cover all FDA-approved contraception. Churches were exempted from the requirement. Later, Obama announced that faith-based employers, such as religious-affiliated hospitals and schools, wouldn’t be required to provide free contraceptive coverage to employees, but the insurance companies would.
The new policy has continued to anger some religious groups, including some Roman Catholic Church leaders.
Brownback said the rule will require some religious institutions to violate their basic tenets by having to provide coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
“That’s not denying women’s rights. If a woman then wants birth control, go work somewhere else,” he said.
Obama administration officials have said the rule won’t violate religious freedoms and will give women access to important preventive care. Supporters of the rule, including the ACLU and women’s advocacy groups, say the measure will improve female health.
Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator for the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women, criticized Brownback over his remarks.
“In this clip, Gov. Brownback states that churches should not be forced to provide birth control to their female employees due to their particular religious convictions. This casts a far narrower net over a policy that in reality would affect millions of women across the nation, who either work for or are insured by a family member through a religiously owned hospital, university, school or organization.” Rinker said.
She also said the governor’s “flippant” suggestion that women work somewhere else “is a verbal strike against women’s right to participate as equals in society and access a full range of preventive health care. This is preventive health care that would, in fact, reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions across the nation.”
Brownback’s opposition to the birth control rule has arisen during the legislative session. His administration has pushed for approval of a bill that supporters say will protect religious liberty.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer testified in support of the measure, saying it was needed because Obama was attacking religious rights, citing the controversy over the contraceptive coverage requirement.
“As you consider House Bill 2260, the federal government’s recent attempts to trample the religious liberties of millions of Americans must be at the forefront of your debate,” Colyer said. “Religious liberty is at the heart of who we are as a people.”
But opponents of the bill say it will allow people to claim religious reasons for challenging a Lawrence ordinance that bars discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.