Yesterday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) required all new health insurance plans to cover birth control for women, annual well-woman exams, breastfeeding tools, and a range of other services without co-pays, co-insurance or a deductible as a part of the Affordable Care Act. The guidelines, which were developed by the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine, are major) because they expand the definition of women's preventive care and reduce out-of-pocket costs for essential healthcare.
"The Affordable Care Act helps stop health problems before they start," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need."
You'd think radical anti-choicers would embrace increased access to pregnancy prevention, but, as Life News reported, they don't. Check out how the site politicized the HHS decision:
The Obama administration has approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.
The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control -- such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception -- in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under "preventative care." The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.
Describing emergency contraceptives such as Ella and Plan B One Step as a form of abortion shows a flagrant disrespect for facts. Ella delays ovulation and blocks sperm from fertilizing an egg for up to five days after unprotected sex. Plan B One Step is a big dose of levonorgestrel, a hormone used in many birth control pills. It won't work if you're already pregnant. According to the anti-choice logic, wouldn't, like, menstruation and masturbation count as abortions? Hell, maybe I'm having an abortion right now because I'm writing this instead of conceiving a child!*
At any rate, to appease anti-choice folks such as the Family Research Council and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, HHS is allowing religious institutions that insure their employees to to opt out of covering birth control. According to its statement, "this regulation is modeled on the most common accommodation for churches available in the majority of the 28 states that already require insurance companies to cover contraception."
In a sharply worded statement, Catholics for Choice president Jon O'Brien called the exemption "state-sanctioned discrimination."
"In allowing religious institutions to refuse to include contraceptive services in the health insurance plans they offer their employees, the Obama administration has once again sided with the Catholic bishops over the needs of women and their families. The multi-billion dollar Catholic healthcare industry has a lot of influence with this administration, influence that it has now used to allow religious institutions to ride roughshod over the needs of their workers. [...] The vast majority of people, including Catholics, in the United States have used a method of family planning banned by the Vatican. Sadly for those employed by many Catholic institutions, they will have to pay out of pocket for contraceptive services that others can access at no extra cost. For the latter, this is clearly good news; for the former, state-sanctioned discrimination is the order of the day."
Despite the exemption, I do think the HHS guidelines are a victory for women of color who are disproportionately affected by gestational diabetes, cervical cancer and HIV and who are less likely to breast feed our children. Plus the religious exemption isn't a done deal. As HHS pointed out in its statement, the agency "welcomes comment on this policy." Stay tuned for information on where and how to fulfill their wish.
Click here for a full rundown of the Guidelines for Women's Preventive Services.
*Note: I'm not having an abortion via non-conception. Because that's impossible.