Should birth control be covered?

The debate over free contraception relies on the question of whether it's preventive care, and when life begins

Topics: Birth Control, Broadsheet, Healthcare Reform, Sex, Love and Sex,

Should birth control be covered?

Birth control could be free for all — maybe, possibly, someday. That’s thanks to an amendment tucked away in the healthcare reform bill requiring new insurance plans to cover the entire cost of certain types of preventive care for women. It’s yet to be decided whether birth control will be one of those services — even though the so-called Mikulski amendment was intended for that very purpose — and experts say it’s unlikely a decision will be reached by late September when the rule goes into effect. (No rush — I mean, the outcome only potentially impacts the estimated 3 million unplanned pregnancies each year.)

Today, the Washington Post’s Michelle Andrews details what a profound change this would be: “Even if a health plan covers contraceptive services, women often face hefty co-payments, ranging from $20 to $50 per month for birth control pills to several hundred dollars for a longer-acting method such as an intrauterine device.” She adds:

You Might Also Like

Experts say another important benefit of eliminating out-of-pocket costs is that it could encourage the use of more reliable and cost-effective contraceptives, such as IUDs and hormonal implants. These methods may provide protection for several years, without relying on women to remember to take a pill or insert a device. But their higher upfront costs discourage many women from using them.

Not only do planned pregnancies tend to result in healthier children, but fewer unplanned pregnancies mean fewer abortions. That’s something everyone can get behind, right?

Of course not. As you might recall, roughly a year ago, abortion became the focus of the Senate debate over the Mikulski amendment. Despite the fact that the amendment focused specifically on contraception, conversation nonetheless turned to Planned Parenthood and the possibility of required coverage for abortions. Normally, I would flippantly point out the inappropriateness of treating Planned Parenthood as a synonym for abortion, seeing as the vast majority of the care the organization provides is preventive — but it’s exactly that disagreement over the definition of preventive care that is at issue here. It might appear that birth control is obviously preventive — it prevents pregnancies, end of discussion — but many anti-abortion activists believe that contraceptives that can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting are actually abortifacients. It all goes back to that niggling question of when exactly life begins.

So, while I can’t guarantee that the Mikulski amendment will bring about contraceptive coverage, I can promise that the impending political debate is going to be such a headache that it’ll be its own form of free birth control.

There’s that, at least.

Tracy Clark-Flory
Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 10
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Michael Ohl/Museum fur Naturkunde

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Soul-Sucking Dementor Wasp

    Latin name: Ampulex dementor

    Truong Ngyuen

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    10,000th reptile species

    Latin name: Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi

    Jodi Rowley/Australian Museum

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Colour-changing thorny frogs

    Latin name: Gracixalus lumarius

    Judith L. Eger

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Long-fanged bat

    Latin name: Hypsugo dolichodon

    Neang Thy Moe/FFI

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Stealthy wolf snake

    Latin name: Lycodon zoosvictoriae

    Michael Janes

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Feathered coral

    Latin name: Ovabunda andamanensis

    Jerome Constant

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    World's second-longest insect

    Phryganistria heusii yentuensis

    Nantasak Pinkaew

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Slide 8

    Latin name: Sirindhornia spp

    Tim Johnson

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Slide 9

    Tylototriton shanorum

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>