Free Birth Control? It Could HappenS

In November, experts advising the U.S. government will get together over coffee and muffins to discuss what sorts of birth control should be provided for free under the "ObamaCare" health reform bill. But first: the obligatory fight over morality.

As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, many health experts and medical practitioners consider birth control as "preventive medicine." By preventing pregnancy, it gives women some control over when they have kids, and how many. And this can make them better parents, by helping them to avoid giving birth to kids they can't economically afford or physically support.

But Catholic bishops and other Catholic leaders don't see it that way, reports the PI. While the bishops have told the Department of Health and Human Services that they oppose requiring coverage for contraception and sterilization, some Catholic leaders—including National Catholic Bioethics Center president John Haas—say birth control is "a lifestyle choice," not a form of health care. "We think there are other ways to avoid having children than by ingesting chemicals paid for by health insurance," Haas says. The morning-after pill is another potential problem subject, as some religious leaders regard it as a form of abortion.

Since the health care law was passed, some states have already been pushing for greater access to free contraception and family planning services. Wisconsin, for example, is just one of 26 states that already provide free family planning to low-income people through Medicaid. But its efforts have, predictably, been met with resistance from statewide conservative groups who oppose such initiatives on both financial and moral-health grounds.

With pro-choice Kathleen Sibelius at the head of DHHS, birth control for all just might become a reality: her department has until next August to decide on whether it includes birth control as preventive care. And maybe our unplanned pregnancy rate—currently it's 50%—will go down, finally? Perhaps, but the government will also need the freedom and the funds to educate women on how to use the services they're given: "inconsistent or incorrect use" is the driving factor behind many unplanned pregnancies, the government reports. And we all know how touchy people get about sex ed.

Contraception could be free under health care law [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
Is the pill preventive medicine? Health overhaul may make birth control available for free [AP via Newser]

Photo by nateOne via Flickr.