There was good news in the reproductive rights movement this week. The Institute of Medicine has recommended that birth control be a preventive service that insurance companies must cover with no co-pays under the Affordable Care Act. Now it’s up to the Department of Health and Human Services, led by Kathleen Sebelius, to enforce that recommendation.
Almost every woman I know has used birth control at some point in her life. My own parents delayed starting their family for more than a decade, enjoying their careers and being together before deciding to have kids. Birth control has near universal use (99 percent) among women of childbearing age, according to the Guttmacher Institute. And considering women are capable of becoming pregnant for more than 30 years of their lives, that adds up to a lot of medical costs.
The panel also recommended covering domestic violence counseling, sexually transmitted infection and HIV testing, cervical cancer screenings and an annual well-woman visit. Pregnant women would have greater access to gestational diabetes screening and more help with lactation counseling and equipment. Women’s health care would take a huge step forward if these recommendations were adopted.
I’ve written before about making birth control free, as have the wonderful writers at Feministing (“Opposing birth control coverage should be as ridiculous as hating puppies”). It’s the most commonsense thing we can do to prevent unplanned pregnancies and make women, children and families healthier. Conservatives should be on board because it would save $4 for every $1 spent and reduce the number of abortions. Don’t expect them to be leading the charge, however. Anti-choice activists consider contraception to be an abortifacient (despite the fact the medical community disagrees) and think people who aren’t married shouldn’t need birth control because they shouldn’t be having sex.
So it’s up to those of us who believe in science and care about women to take up this fight. Sebelius is expected to make a decision in the next couple of weeks. Please sign the petition by Planned Parenthood urging birth control without co-pays. This could be a major victory in a year that has seen more anti-women and anti-choice bills pass state legislatures than ever before.