The Institute of Medicine has published a list of preventative health services for women last week, after being called to task by the Department of Health last year.
Among the IOM’s recommendations is the proposal that all forms of contraception be free of charge for women requiring them; meaning birth control would be available without co-pay under insurance plans.
While many organizations, such as Planned Parenthood are hailing the recommendation as a step in the right direction towards minimizing the instance of unwanted pregnancies in the United States, many in the religious community are in fierce opposition to the idea.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is speaking out on the issue to coincide with Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, which falls on July 24 through July 30.
The Catholic Church opposes all forms of birth control, favoring Natural Family Planning, which carefully tracks a woman’s menstrual cycle in order to aid or prevent pregnancy. Catholic representatives note that Natural Family Planning is also free.
“Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardio, chairman of the bishop’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities in a written statement.
In accordance with Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, several Catholic parishes and dioceses are offering classes on Natural Family Planning.
Despite the Church’s stance, many Catholics do not adhere to the rule against contraception. The Washington Post reported that a Guttmacher Institute study concluded that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used birth control at some point in time, as well as almost 100 percent of evangelical women.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke last year about the use of condoms possibly being a “lesser evil than the spread of AIDS.” Those comments had many Catholics hoping for a change in the Church’s ethos, but no major amendments have been made.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated half of U.S. pregnancies were unplanned. Correlated with this are an increased risk of morbidity in the mother as well as delaying prenatal care, which can put the child’s health in danger.
The IOM report details that access to free birth control may improve the health of women in the long run, allowing them to more successfully space and plan their pregnancies and decrease the instances of unwanted pregnancies.