'Obamacare' Birth Control Mandate Does Not Promote Women's Health, Conservative Women's Group Argues

The Obama administration's argument that mandating birth control coverage reduces unintended pregnancies and has health benefits for women is based upon faulty reasoning and flawed research, the Beverly LaHaye Institute argues in an Amicus, or "friend of the court" brief for a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the case Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby, which the Supreme Court will hear in March, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are suing the Obama administration over its mandate to cover birth control, including some drugs that can be abortifacients. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Christian-owned companies, argue that the mandate violates their owners' religious beliefs.

Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Obama administration must show that the mandate furthers a "compelling governmental interest" that outweighs the religious freedom concerns of Hobby Lobby. That "compelling governmental interest," the administration is arguing, is promoting women's health, preventing unintended pregnancies, and promoting gender equity.

While many Amicus briefs submitted this week focus on the religious freedom issues, BLI's brief is unique in arguing that the administration has failed to prove that the birth control mandate promotes women's health and prevents unintended pregnancies.

The BLI brief first rejects the notion that pregnancies can be neatly categorized into "intended" and "unintended:" "Some women welcome 'unintended' pregnancies, and some 'intended' pregnancies end in abortion due to complications or a change in a woman's social situation."

But even assuming that there is such a dichotomy, the brief continues, the government's evidence, which is solely based upon a 2011 Institute of Medicine report, has failed to show that the birth control mandate would lead to increased usage of birth control or that unintended pregnancies lead to poor health outcomes for the mothers. The IOM's own report shows, for instance, that 89 percent of women avoiding pregnancy already use birth control and among the remaining 11 percent, cost or access to birth control is not a statistically significant reason they do not use birth control.

The BLI brief also points to peer-reviewed research showing that access to birth control can have the opposite effect: When teens have greater access to birth control, it lowers the risk of pregnancy in the short term but increases the risk of pregnancy in the long term because it leads to greater sexual activity.

Additionally, while the government uses the IOM report to suggest that access to contraceptives will lower the risk of smoking, drinking, depression and domestic violence, the IOM report does nothing to establish that unintended pregnancies cause those risk factors. While there is a correlation, correlation does not imply causation. There may be other factors that explain why those risk factors are associated with unintended pregnancies.

The birth control mandate furthers the government's interest in "gender equity," the government argues, by promoting "a woman's control over her procreation."

The BLI brief argues that: nowhere in the legislative record or the wording of the Affordable Care Act can be found the intent to assist women in avoiding pregnancy; having the right to birth control does not imply the government has an interest in promoting birth control; and declining to fund birth control is not the same as interfering with the right to access birth control.

"The HHS contraceptive mandate is a political tool masquerading as 'evidence-based' science," Catherine Short, legal director at Life Legal Defense Foundation and author of the brief, said in a press release. "Neither family-run businesses such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties nor any other employer should be forced to pay for drugs and devices that do nothing to promote health but instead end human lives."

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