Health Reform May Include Free Birth Control, Condoms

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – In the near future, every American woman could have free access to birth control.

That dream came closer to reality yesterday with the release of a report by the Institute of Medicine suggesting that health insurance companies provide birth control to women without co-pays, which was first suggested last year. The organization is nonprofit and non-governmental, but the report in question was commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services, which sought to determine which preventative health services were important to women’s health. Its recommendations are non-binding.

The most notable of these recommendations was that health insurance companies provide women with both birth control and contraceptive education , free of charge. Noting that “the elimination of cost-sharing [deductibles and co-payments] for contraception … could greatly increase its use,” the report “recommends for consideration as a preventative service for women: the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

That list includes everything from condoms to birth control pills to intrauterine devices (IUDs). The report also recommends increased screening and counseling for HIV, as well as improved testing for Human Papillomavirus (the cause of cervical cancer) and screening and counseling for women at risk for domestic abuse.

The recommendation almost immediately kicked up controversy. The Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying group, decried the fact that emergency contraception would apparently be covered under the proposed plan, saying that it “essentially would mandate coverage for abortion.” Still, as the report notes, about half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended and approximately 42% of these end in abortion. As such, providing free access to birth control might reduce the total number of abortions carried out in the United States.