Taking on ‘Hobby Lobby’
By Kelly Culwell
On March 25, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a pair of cases that challenge the birth control benefit — Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. In each of these cases, employers at for-profit corporations want to deny their employees legally mandated insurance coverage for birth control, based on the bosses’ personal religious beliefs.
At Planned Parenthood, we see firsthand every day why these case matters so much. Planned Parenthood health care providers across the country see the benefits of affordable birth control every day. We also hear from women who are forced to choose between groceries or filling their prescription — between paying the rent, or choosing the form of birth control that’s right for them. Birth control is only a “social issue” if you’ve never had to pay for it.
Here are the facts. Ninety-nine percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 who are sexually active have used birth control at some point in their lives — and providing access to it is commonsense and mainstream health care. Birth control is tremendously important to women for all kinds of reasons, including to control certain medical conditions including endometriosis and to plan our families. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly 60 percent of birth control pill users cite health benefits a contributing factor for using the birth control pill.
We also know that birth control can be expensive — with some of the most effective methods costing upwards of $1,000. But when women have access to the full range of contraception methods — without cost barriers — we can actually reduce unintended pregnancy rates and the need for abortion. We also know that access to affordable birth control is just smart for everyone. For every dollar spent on family planning, taxpayers save nearly $6 in public money.
That’s why, after decades of discriminatory coverage by insurance companies and at the recommendation of leading medical groups, the Affordable Care Act requires all insurance policies to cover the full range of FDA approved birth control methods with no out-of-pocket cost to women — because it’s part of preventive care.
Yet we still face an ongoing fight over birth control in this country. There are people — politicians, special interest groups, and now bosses — who want to take away access to affordable birth control. Based on nothing more than their personal beliefs, employers at for-profit corporations have gone all the way to the Supreme Court to try to stop their employees from getting access to this important care they need.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the corporations, it could jeopardize the birth control coverage that millions of women rely on. It could give bosses a free pass to discriminate and create a slippery slope in which employers, based solely on their personal religious beliefs, could deny coverage of any medical treatment or procedure to their employees that they disagree with — including mental health services, vaccines, surgery, blood transfusions, and more.
That’s why we’ve seen so many people, including doctors and medical groups speak out against these efforts and why Planned Parenthood, no matter what the court decides, will continue to stand alongside women and their families to ensure they get the health care they need — without interference from their bosses.
—Kelly Culwell, M.D., M.P.H. is the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest.
15th Annual Lawn Mower Exchange
By Supervisor Ron Roberts
Yes, that’s right Uptown. San Diego County’s annual Lawn Mower Exchange is back.
For the past 14 springs, San Diego residents have risen early one Saturday morning to do a little extra for local air quality by trading in their old, gas powered lawn mowers for a new, zero-emission model. Since 2000, the program has distributed 7,044 rechargeable mowers.
This year’s Mowing Down Pollution exchange takes place at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday, May 3.
Residents of the Uptown communities and all of San Diego County can participate with the proper identification and a qualifying gasoline mower. The price of the new mower will be $99.99, just as it has been for the last four years, thanks to a special bulk purchase agreement and funding from air pollution fines. The mowers retail for about $400.
Weekend gardeners and spectators alike are welcome. The atmosphere will once again be fun, festive and unique, with snaking lines of mowers and their owners from across the county. Also, San Diego Gas & Electric returns, displaying a collection of electric vehicles and providing information on electric cars. A food truck will offer drinks and morning fare.
The exchange process is simple. Once in line, a place card is distributed to each person with a mower. When the customer reaches the front of the line, proof of his or her San Diego County residency is checked and their mower is then inspected to make sure it is in operable condition and contains all of its parts. Broken mowers or those missing pieces will be turned away. (This is an important detail that arises each year. Public funds can only be used to replace mowers that actually work and contribute to local air pollution.)
Due to the “Mowing Down Pollution” program’s popularity, those who plan on participating should arrive at Qualcomm Stadium by the 8 a.m. start, but no earlier than 4:30 a.m. The exchange, which ends at 10 a.m., takes place in the North West quadrant, with plenty of signage to direct attendees.
This year’s lawnmower is a Black and Decker CM1936, 36 volt, cordless rechargeable model that is capable of mulching and bagging with a two-year factory warranty. For more information about this event, please call the San Diego Air Pollution Control District at 858-586-2600, or my office at 619-531-5544.
— County Supervisor Ron Roberts represents the Uptown community as part of his Fourth Supervisorial District. You can follow him on Facebook at Supervisor Ron Roberts, on Twitter at @RonRobertsSD.
San Diego Opera closing
Thank you for Charlene Baldridge’s insightful story on the closing of the San Diego Opera [see “Requiem for an opera” Vol. 6, Issue 7]. Her experience in the community and its organizations is an important contribution to the dialog. What seems to be getting lost in all the chest beating is that the times are changing; Ian Campbell recognizes it, and he wants to exit on a high note (pun intended). We are surrounded by businesses and nonprofits that close and leave the tax payers, employees (union employees, too, Miss Gonzalez) and contributors holding the bag. There are many of us out here who wish we had gotten this much notice when our jobs went away. What, I ask, is so wrong with the Opera wanting to close its doors with satisfied creditors, paid-up employees, ticket holders getting all the performances they paid for, and virtually no animosity with its donor base?
As pointed out in the article, Campbell was sounding a warning five years ago that the financial condition of the company was not sustainable. But through cost cutting and efficiency, he has managed to keep it going in a relatively healthy state that other opera companies could not accomplish. Yet he is being criticized for being responsible in this very effort, providing cultural enrichment and real employment, for those five years. Such hypocrisy.
In an earlier statement, Campbell discusses a condition he calls “donor fatigue.” He is precisely on the mark about this malady, and it’s one that is seldom addressed in the public arena because the discussion inevitably degenerates into a “haves vs. have-nots” argument. Donors like myself will gladly tell you that dozens of organizations, ranging from the symphony to homeless shelters, stand in line to ask for money from a short list of individuals who care enough about San Diego to part with money to support these causes. I was fortunate to once work for a great patron of the Opera, and he would often lament that he couldn’t contribute more to the Company to help it reach higher goals. And he had Hollywood connections.
Perhaps more self-examination and reflection is in order, too. San Diegans have shown that they don’t want to spend more tax dollars to support the arts nor, it seems, are they willing to cough up another estimated 30 percent to cover the actual value of the ticket. We can’t have it both ways without paying for it. I applaud Campbell for trying to keep the ticket price accessible to several income brackets while paying living wages to the performers, musicians, stagehands, and office workers.
Tens of thousands of us seem willing to pay a lot more than the price of an opera ticket to see a football or baseball game. Or accept a bank executive being paid millions to loot our retirement plan with impunity. A big donor stepped forward to help fund infrastructure improvements at Balboa Park but was slapped down when those ideas weren’t acceptable to someone else’s ideas, which, it turns out, can’t get funding, either.
I will miss the San Diego Opera and what it contributes to a vibrant culture, but I also accept that we are living a new paradigm and we all are finding ways to cope. Ian Campbell and the Opera are to be commended for doing so gracefully.
—Ronn Rohe via email