Planned Parenthood of Northern New England applauds the decision by the United States Department of Health and Human Services to ensure access to affordable birth control, and not further expand the refusal provision to the birth control coverage benefit under the Affordable Care Act.
This decision is grounded in sound medical science and health policy and protects access to affordable birth control for millions of women, including women who are employed by a religiously affiliated hospital, university, or other religiously affiliated organization that serves the broader public.
“Birth control is not just basic health care for women, it is an economic concern,” said Jill Krowinski, Director of Vermont Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “This common sense decision means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year.”
In July 2011, the respected, nonpartisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended birth control be covered as a women’s preventive service because it is fundamental to improving women’s health and the health of their families. Increased access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, as well as other health benefits and positive health outcomes. Among other things, birth control can protect women against debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
“Doctors and public health experts agree that increased access to birth control is not only one of the best ways to prevent unintended pregnancies, it also improves health outcomes for women and their families,” said Krowinski.
In August 2011, HHS adopted the IOM’s recommendation, paving the way for one of the greatest advancements for women’s health in decades. The women’s preventive service benefit will take effect in August 2012 and requires that a range of preventive health care services be covered by insurance companies with no additional co-pays.
This birth control coverage benefit underscores the fact that birth control use is nearly universal in the United States, even among Catholic women. According to Guttmacher
, 99% of all sexually experienced women and 98% of sexually experienced Catholic women will have used birth control at some point in their lives.
In fact, according to NPR, many religiously affiliated hospitals and universities currently provide birth control coverage to their employees.
The birth control coverage benefit is also one of the most popular provisions in the Affordable Care Act, even among Catholics, whose bishops oppose birth control. According to a Hart Research poll
, 71 percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support the benefit that health plans cover prescription birth control at no cost. And a May 2011 Thomson Reuters-NPR Health poll found that 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should provide no-cost birth control.
Planned Parenthood believes all women, regardless of their employer, should be able to access the birth control coverage benefit. That’s why Planned Parenthood opposes the current provision that allows religious employers like churches and church associations to deny this important and economically valuable benefit to their employees. Planned Parenthood also disagrees with adding the one year waiver provision to the final rule.
Planned Parenthood respects religious freedom and believes that neither government nor employers should intrude on individuals’ ability to practice their own religion or faith, including their personal decisions about health care.