The Battle For Free Birth Control

By this summer, we'll know if contraception will be fully covered — i.e. free — under health insurance reform. The two battles ahead: Getting it counted as "preventative care," and working out the privacy issues for anyone under 26.


The New York Times takes the pulse on the political issues involved here. Getting contraception on the list has been a major priority for reproductive health groups, who logically point out that high co-pays (or lack of insurance altogether) is making it harder for women to control their own fertility and resulting in a higher social cost. This handy pie chart from a study on the topic helps to illustrate.


A panel of independent experts is going to make recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services about whether contraception and family planning should be in the list. That panel is supposed to prevent the issue from being politicized. Good luck with that.

Medical experts already consider contraception preventative care:

Dr. Hal C. Lawrence III, vice president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said contraceptives fit any reasonable definition of preventive health care because they averted unintended pregnancies and allowed women to control the timing, number and spacing of births. This, in turn, improves maternal and child health by reducing infant mortality, complications of pregnancy and even birth defects, said Dr. Lawrence, who is in charge of the group's practice guidelines.


This is a perfect time for conservatives to show their enthusiasm for reducing abortions (not to mention improving maternal health and the health of infants) by improving access to contraception! Right? Right?

"Pregnancy is not a disease to be prevented, nor is fertility a pathological condition," said Deirdre A. McQuade, a spokeswoman for the bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat. "So birth control is not preventive care, and it should not be mandated."


Get ready for a fight. In the meantime, there's a less partisan concern about how this provision would play out: If someone still on their parents' insurance, including a minor, wants their contraception covered, that would in theory require an explanation of benefits to the policy holder. In other words, you'd have to tell your parents, no matter how conservative or disapproving, about sexual activity. Given that insurers now have to keep anyone under 26 who wants to stay on their parents' plan, this is a pretty wide swath.

Should birth control actually end up on the preventative care list, we look forward to social conservatives finding a way to politicize this tricky issue as well. Abortionists want to force birth control pills down the throats of sex-trafficked minors without telling their parents! Wait, let's not give them any ideas. Here's a Planned Parenthood petition you can sign in the meantime.


Officials Consider Requiring Insurers to Offer Free Contraceptives [NYT]
Earlier: Your Birth Control Pills Not Yet Free Under Health Care Reform
What If Birth Control Were Free? More Women Would Use It
Wouldn't It Be Nice If Birth Control Pills Were Free?

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