Abbott Balks at Birth Control Mandate

Calling the mandate unconstitutional, 10 AGs threaten to sue

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (Photo by Jana Birchum)

On the same day that President Barack Obama ceded some ground to religious organizations who were unhappy with a provision of the health care law that would require most insurance plans to cover birth control without a co-pay, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott jumped on board with nine other attorneys general to decry the birth control mandate as unconstitutional.

Religious organizations would have to eliminate health coverage for employees altogether in order to avoid the birth control mandate, according to the AGs. "The only viable alternative for these employers is to penalize their employees by ceasing the provision of health insurance altogether," they wrote. "The choice for such organizations essentially becomes: provide and subsidize activity in contravention with core religious beliefs, eliminate employer-provided health coverage, or withdraw from public ministry." Unless the feds rescind the new rule, the AGs wrote, they'll be compelled to sue. "Should this unconstitutional mandate be promulgated, we are prepared to vigorously oppose it in court," they wrote.

Dramatics aside, the new provision was fairly simple: It required private health plans to cover birth control without a co-pay. This would, of course, require religiously affiliated institutions, such as Catholic universities, to follow the new law but would not affect church employees. Nonetheless, the U.S. Catholic bishops raised a stink, prompting Obama to tweak the plan: Now the onus will be on insurance companies to ensure the coverage, he said Feb. 10.

In support of the provision, more than 600 doctors have signed a letter put together by Doctors for America that urges the federal government to maintain the new contraceptive rule. "I have practiced medicine for over 30 years," said Dr. Carmen Nevarez, a Catholic physician in Oakland, Calif., in a press release. "Women prove to me, year after year, that they are capable of making the best decisions for themselves and their families. They also need a fair and equal chance to the resources needed to make those choices."

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

Read more of the Chronicle's decades of reproductive rights reporting here.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Greg Abbott
Abbott Flirts With Endorsing School Vouchers
Abbott Flirts With Endorsing School Vouchers
Primary challengers pressure the governor from the right

Kimberly Reeves, Jan. 28, 2022

Greg Abbott’s New Wrecking Crew
Greg Abbott’s New Wrecking Crew
The governor’s got a whole new office staff

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 22, 2017

More birth control
Well-Behaved? Let's Assume Not.
PRO: Reclaiming Abortion Rights and The Birth of the Pill
Jonathan Eig's breezy history of the Pill is engaging, but Katha Pollitt's argument for abortion rights is indispensible

Michael King, Nov. 28, 2014

Frank 'The Fetus' Strikes Again
Frank 'The Fetus' Strikes Again
Seemingly undaunted by his failure to push through legislation in 2005 that sought to protect pharmacists of conscience from having to fill scrips for emergency contraceptives, Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, gears up his 2007 this-is-where-life-begins agenda

Jordan Smith, Dec. 1, 2006

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

Eighth Inmate of the Year Set to Die
Eighth Inmate of the Year Set to Die
Eighth inmate of the year set to die

May 9, 2014


Greg Abbott, birth control, attorney general, Barack Obama, birth control mandate, insurance, women's health, reproductive rights

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle