Pelosi Cuts Off Question About Free Sterilization Mandate; Says: 'Let's Go to Church and Talk About Our Religion'

July 11, 2012 - 5:24 PM

Nancy Pelosi

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CNSNews.com) - At a press conference on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cut off a question about the Health and Human Services regulation that takes effect on Aug. 1 and that will require health care plans in the United States to provide coverage for sterilizations, without any fees or co-pay, to all women with “reproductive capacity”--meaning all women who have begun ovulating, including teens.

Pelosi mistakenly thought the question about “sterilization” that she interrupted was about religion.

"I told you before, let’s go to church and talk about our religion," Pelosi said.

After the press conference, Pelosi’s communication director, Nadeam Elshami, did not respond to the question about the sterilization regulation's application to young women when it was sent to via email and when calls were placed to him at Pelosi’s office.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius proposed the regulation in question last August as part of the implementation of Obamacare. It says that health care plans “are required to provide coverage without cost sharing” for “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

The regulation was recommended by a federally funded committee at the Institute of Medicine (a part of the National Academy of Sciences), which explained in making its recommendation that “women with reproductive capacity” meant women “from the time of menarche to menopause.” Menarche is a young women’s first menstrual cycle.

The National Institutes of Health says that young women usually start to menstruate "around age 12." Thus the HHS-mandated insurance coverage providing sterilizations without cost-sharing would apply to girls as young as 12.

At Wednesday’s press conference, which specifically focused on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), CNSNews.com attempted to ask Pelosi whether she supported this regulation insofar as it extends to teens and college-age women. Pelosi, however, cut the question off before it could be completed.

CNSNews.com asked: "You mentioned the preventative services mandate. One of the services that health care plans have to offer free of charge are sterilizations. And I was wondering do you agree with the federal government mandating—”

Pelosi said: “You know what, I told you before let’s go to church and talk about our religion—"

CNSNews.com asked: “No, no, but it’s—"

Pelosi said: “Right here we’re talking about public policy as it affects women and we’re not, you know that this bill is—"

CNSNews.com asked: “No, it has nothing to do with the religious views but do you—"

Pelosi said: “No, it does.”

CNSNews.com: “--agree that the federal government should be mandating—"

Pelosi: “I believe that the legislation to allow women to determine the size and timing of their families and have access--"

CNSNews.com: “--Even for---

Pelosi: --to contraception. Next question.”

The crowd applauded.

Later, CNSNews.com emailed Pelosi Communication Director Elshami a detailed question for the House Minority Leader about whether she supports the fact that the HHS sterilization-without-cost-sharing mandate extends to teens and college-age women.

The written question to Pelosi said: "The HHS 'preventive services' mandate that goes into effect on Aug. 1 says that health care plans 'are required to provide coverage without cost sharing' for 'all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.' The committee of the Institute of Medicine that recommended this mandate explained that 'with reproductive capacity' means 'from the time of menarche to menopause.' Menarche is a young woman’s first menstrual cycle. Do you agree with this federal mandate that health care plans must provide, without cost sharing, sterilizations specifically for young women in their teens and college years?"

CNSNews.com followed up on this written question with phone calls to Pelosi’s office seeking a response. By the time this article was posted later on Wednesday, Pelosi's office had not responded.

HHS commissioned and funded a committee at the Institute of Medicine to recommend regulations to govern the “preventive services” that health care plan would be mandated to provide to women without cost-sharing--i.e. fees or co-pay--under Obamacare.

The committee’s report to HHS said: “The committee recommends for consideration as a preventive service for women: the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity.”

In the introduction to the part of its report dealing with this recommendation, the committee explained that reproductive capacity started with “menarche.” “Unintended pregnancy is defined as a pregnancy that is either unwanted or mistimed at the time of conception … and affects women with reproductive capacity, that is, from the time of menarche to menopause,” the committee said.

On Aug. 1, 2011, HHS adopted the committee’s recommendation almost verbatim---but adding the word "all" before "women with reproduction capacity." The HHS regulation mandated that insurance palns provide coverage without cost-sharing for: “All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity."

In March, HHS extended the preventative services mandate to all student health care plans covering college student, thus mandating that those plans provide voluntary sterilizations to college women without fees or co-pay.

At a press conference in June, CNSNews.com did ask Pelosi, who is Catholic, if she agreed with the Catholic Church—which is suing the Obama administration over the sterilization-contraception-abortificaient mandate—in its teaching on sterilization.

Pelosi said then: “You know what, I do my religion on Sunday in church, and I try to go other days of the week. I don’t do it at this press conference.”