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Get ready for a new (birth control) revolution

November 2, 2010 - Mary Ann Heath
Some are predicting a new birth control revolution may be on the horizon — but not before it causes a battle over morality. The new health care law could make contraception free to women in the U.S. According to an Associated Press story released Monday, a panel of experts advising the government will meet this month to consider what kind of preventive care for women should be covered at no cost to the patient, as required under President Obama’s overhaul.

According to its author, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the intent behind the women’s health amendment is to include family planning.

And the battle begins: Is birth control preventive medicine?

Already Catholic bishops have taken a stance against making contraception free.

But why?

To be clear, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. But making contraception free won’t also somehow make it a requirement for all. Those who don’t believe in contraception can simply choose not to use it.

According to some medical experts, contraception provides both medical and financial benefits.

“There is clear and incontrovertible evidence that family planning saves lives and improves health,” said obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. David Grimes, an international family planning expert, who also teaches medicine at the University of North Carolina.

He went on to explain in the AP story that contraception rivals immunizations in dollars saved for every dollar invested. “Spacing out children allows for optimal pregnancies and optimal child rearing,” he said, adding, “Contraception is a prototype of preventive medicine.”

While bishops raise a fuss over the women’s health amendment, do they realize that most insurance plans, including Medicaid, already cover prescription contraceptives?

John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said bishops “don’t consider it to be health care, but a lifestyle choice.”

“We think there are other ways to avoid having children than by ingesting chemicals paid for by health insurance,” he said. Interesting choice of words. Does this mean they approve of condoms, or diaphragms?

And what about the health conditions for which birth control is prescribed that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy? Birth control is sometimes used to treat endometriosis, and is also recommended to help prevent uterine cancer, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet.

Lastly, data shows the use of birth control is widespread. According to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 93 million prescriptions for contraceptives were dispensed in 2009. U.S. Census data from the same year shows that approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population — 150 million — are female. Considering not all 150 million are of child-bearing age leaves one to conclude that an overwhelming majority of women use contraception.

No one is forcing birth control use on the population. The benefits this amendment could have are many. Why ruin it for everyone?


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