(CNSNews.com) -- Kathleen Turner, actress and chairwoman of Planned Parenthood’s Board of Advocates, said she respects religious liberty but did not “know how to really get into the whole church business” when discussing a health care mandate that requires nearly all insurers to offer contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs free of charge.
The mandate issued by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) went into effect on Aug. 1. It requires nearly all health insurance plans to provide free coverage of sterilization procedures, abortifacient drugs, and contraceptives to all women “of reproductive capacity.”
Numerous religious groups, including the Catholic Church, have condemned the rule as a violation of religious liberty. Forty-three plaintiffs in 12 different lawsuits, including the archdioceses of New York and Washington and the University of Notre Dame, are suing the Obama administration over the regulation.
Speaking Thursday in Washington, D.C. at the National Press Club about reproductive rights, Turner was asked by an audience member about the possible comparison between a Catholic employer providing coverage for contraceptives and an employer creating “financial disadvantages” for cigarette smokers.
Turner rejected the comparison and said “contraception is a basic health care right.” She also praised freedom of religion in the United States.
“I don’t think they’re comparable, really,” said Turner. “First of all, as I said and as we know, contraception is a basic health care right. It is a necessary health care right. Smoking is not -- not at all. So, I think that, religious or not, it should be part of the package of a woman’s health care.”
She continued, “Now, I don’t know how to really get into the whole ‘church’ business. I don’t want to. I believe that everyone’s belief in this country are their own and are personal. We have freedom of religion in this country. It’s not my place to question anyone’s else’s, nor allow mine to be questioned.”
During the rest of her remarks, Turner discussed the importance of Planned Parenthood and protecting rights to preventive services, and urged women to support President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.
She also criticized the pro-life agenda of conservative politicians, namely “personhood” bills that would give constitutional rights to the unborn.
“And then we have the so-called ‘personhood’ bills. Now these would give full legal rights to a zygote, at the moment sperm meets egg,” said Turner. “Frankly, I have always wondered, ‘how do they know?’”
Turner added that legislation proposed in Virginia requiring women who are considering an abortion to view an ultrasound of the fetus made her “so angry.”
“I think it is a deliberately humiliating abuse,” she said. “I think that if such a thing were possible for men, it would be unheard of. I am so angry that I’ll stop right now.”
When asked about the role of Hollywood actors in the 2012 election, Turner said she does not identify with Hollywood and scolded the “insular” Hollywood lifestyle that many other actors and actresses take on.
She also claimed that “men are frightened of women,” as women attain more power and success in American society.
“Over the years, I have become more and more convinced that men are frightened of women,” said Turner.
“Of our increased ability, of our increasing power, of our increasing position -- that they feel, essentially, threatened as a group,” she said. “I doubt that you feel that way, perhaps as individuals. But I think that we scare the hell out of you guys. And the problem is you’re just going to have to get over it, because we can help you, too.”
At the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards endorsed President Obama and praised the HHS mandate.
“The good news is, we already have a president who's on our side,” said Richards. “President Obama understands women. He trusts women. And on every issue that matters to us, he stands with women.”
“President Obama ensured women's preventive care -- including birth control, too – will be covered by all health care plans, with no co-pay, no matter where we work,” she said.
In fiscal year 2010, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) got $487.4 million from the federal and state governments, up from $363.2 million the previous year, making taxpayer funding about one-third of the organization’s $1 billion in assets. According to its fact sheet, Planned Parenthood performed 329,445 abortions in 2010.