November 1, 2010
Report: Federal Health Care Could Provide Free Contraception
A panel of experts will meet in November to consider the kinds of preventive care for women should be covered under the new health care law, according to the Associated Press.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., author of the women's health amendment, says the clear intent was to include family planning.
But is birth control preventive medicine?
Conflicting answers frame what could be the next clash over moral values and a health law that passed only after a difficult compromise restricting the use of public money for abortions.
U.S. Catholic bishops opposes a requirement to cover contraceptives or sterilization as preventive care, the AP reports.
So far, most other religious conservatives have stayed out of the debate, though that could change. Some say they are concerned about any requirement that might include the morning-after pill. The Food and Drug Administration classifies it as birth control; some religious conservatives see it as an abortion drug.
Jeanne Monahan, a health policy expert at the conservative Family Research Council, said her group would oppose any mandate that lacks a conscience exemption for moral and religious reasons. She said there's "great suspicion" that a major abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, is leading the push for free birth control.
As recently as the 1990s, many health insurance plans didn't even cover birth control. Protests, court cases, and new state laws led to dramatic changes. Today, almost all plans now cover prescription contraceptives. So does Medicaid, the health care program for low-income people.
The department must make a decision by next August.