Reproductive health advocates are responding to comments made this week by Anthony Picarello, general counsel to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Arguing for an even more extreme exemption for religious organizations, Picarello said, “If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate,” citing that mandating birth control coverage is unfair for “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released a statement in response, saying “The power to decide whether or not each individual woman uses contraception should be with that woman – not her boss. We will not stand for these attempts to undermine the ability of women to make their own decisions.”

Last month, Health and Human Services announced that under the women’s preventive care package, religiously affiliated schools, hospitals and organizations would be included in the requirement for birth control coverage without co-pays or deductible, exempting only “houses of worship.” This announcement has resulted in an outcry from the Conference of Catholic Bishops and bills soon to be introduced in the US House of Representatives and Senate that could jeopardize the entire set of regulations regarding women’s preventive care package.

Gillibrand affirms that women’s health advocates in the Senate will not back down: “If my Republican colleagues want to continue to take this issue head on, we stand ready to oppose any attacks launched against women’s rights and women’s health.”

USA Today 2/9/12, Senator Gillibrand Press Release, 2/9/12