Allowing free birth control as a preventive service creates a back door in the newly passed health care reform to federally fund abortion, a conservative Christian group says.
Discussion is brewing among U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Institution of Medicine on whether or not provisions for free preventive care in the health care reform bill may be used to provide free access to contraceptives in the form of pills, patches and vaginal rings.
Conservative public policy group Family Research Council is outraged at the possibility that contraceptives would ever be considered a part of free services paid for with taxpayers' money. Jeanne Monahan, director of the FRC's Center of Human Dignity, pointed out that some birth control products such as emergency contraceptives, previously created to prevent conception, now act in a way that halts conception, similar to abortion drugs.
"Emergency contraceptives … act as an abortion drug because they prevent implantation in most cases. And now, in the case of Ella, it can actually affect a baby's implantation so that it can cause an abortion after implantation. "
The Food and Drug Administration approved Ella for public use in August. Monahan explained that when the lining of the uterus is disrupted after implantation, it cuts off essential protein to the fetus and starves it.
"Without a doubt emergency contraceptives can act as abortion drugs," Monahan maintained.
Advocates for reproductive health say that access to contraceptives is a critical part of people's lives. Sexual and reproductive health advocate organization the Guttmacher Institute found in a 2004 study that 77 percent of U.S. women use contraceptives. Of that, 28 million women reportedly use contraceptives regularly.
Of those who were not using contraceptives, the study found nearly 4 million women had problems accessing or using contraceptive methods. The report then concluded, "Convenience in the area of contraception would be real, meaningful and practical support, which would enable women to avoid unwanted pregnancies, improve their health and better plan and pursue their lives."
According to HealthCare.gov, final regulations issued July 14 require new heath care plans and issuers to provide certain preventive services issued by in-network providers without co-fees in order to improve and maintain the recipients' health. Preventive services mean routine services such as check-ups, screenings and patient counseling.
The DHHS has already created a list of preventive services it deems acceptable for free coverage. The list includes screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.
However, it has not made any determinations regarding reproductive health. The department is relying on the IOM to make recommendations of reproductive services that would be suitable for the preventive services list.
Monahan argues that access to contraceptives is not a routine service, but an elective one that many people choose not to use.
"It wouldn't be fair if my tax dollars and your tax dollars, if you were opposed to this, would have to ultimately fund other people receiving [birth control]," she said.
The Catholic Church is staunchly opposed to the use of contraceptives in any form. Protestants disapprove of contraception given to minors, and are strongly opposed to drugs that result in abortion.
The IOM will present the panel findings within the next year.