Buried in a 260-page health care report prepared for the federal government, a bombshell recommendation was made: Birth control should be available and free for all women.
The Institute of Medicine released its report and recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services for women’s health care this week, entitled “Clinical Preventative Services for Women: Closing the Gap.” Because of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, there is a new emphasis on preventative care in insurance services.
One of the recommendations the committee makes: “the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods should be covered,” as well as patient counseling and education services for “all women with reproductive capacity.”
The Nation cited a Guttmacher Institute survey that concluded that 49 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, and the IOM report pointed out that “the direct medical cost of unintended pregnancy in the United States was estimated to be nearly $5 billion in 2002, with the cost savings due to contraceptive use estimated to be $19.3 billion.”
The Guttmacher Institute published an explanation of the report, which said that placing contraceptives under the preventative care umbrella would be a positive move. The report, they wrote, “acknowledges the reality that cost can be a daunting barrier to effective contraceptive use. The evidence strongly suggests that insurance coverage of contraceptive services and supplies without cost-sharing is a low-cost—or even cost-saving—means of helping women overcome this obstacle.”
There is no legal requirement that Health and Human Services adopt the no co-pay recommendation for birth control, nor any of the committee’s other recommendations. The National Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood, for their part, are hosting a blog carnival later this week to show popular support for the recommendations.
The Family Research Council, a conservative, anti-abortion group, issued a press release denouncing the committee’s recommendation.
“HHS should focus on items and services that prevent actual diseases, and not include controversial services just to placate the abortion industry,” Jeanne Monahan, director of the FRC’s Center for Human Dignity, wrote, and concluded that the “conscience rights” of Americans would be violated if “abortifacients” were written into insurance codes.
The committee itself argued that an effort to improve women’s sexual health and control pregnancies would benefit all, not just women.
“With the multiple roles that women play in society, to invest in the health and well-being of women is to invest in the progress of all,” Linda Rosenstock, who chaired the committee, wrote in the preface to the report.