Close-up of a package of birth control pills.
Obtaining birth control pills may soon be cost-free. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Sarah C/Flickr)

The debate over affordable birth control has proven contentious in the U.S., where legislation like the Affordable Care Act faces daily assault. Now, NPR reports that good news may be on the way for reproductive rights activists. Birth control co-pays may soon be banned.

Making birth control methods affordable

Contraception, particularly emergency contraception, is at the center of a series of recommendations the independent Institute of Medicine will make to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday. The institute’s presentation will reportedly highlight the preventative care aspect of birth control and say every consumer health plan should cover it without cost-sharing.

Free birth control affords more options

A $25 co-pay for a monthly birth control prescription is out of reach for many U.S. families. NPR interviewed Andrea Leyva, 36, a woman whose married life was made more difficult by a surprise pregnancy.

“(Birth control pills) began to fall into the category of a luxury for us,” she said. “While we’re happy that she’s here … had we had some better finances, we probably could have made some better decisions.”

A lack of family planning options has created an epidemic, says Deborah Nucatola, senior director for medical services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Half of all pregnancies that happen in the U.S. every year are unintended,” Nucatola said. “And if we could prevent an epidemic of this proportion, that should be justification enough that contraception is preventive care.”

Three-quarters of Americans agree

An NPR/Thomson Reuters poll conducted in early 2011 found that nearly three-quarters of Americans are in favor of private insurance – employer-based policies included – picking up the tab for oral contraceptives. The numbers were nearly the same when the same question was posed in relation to state-run healthcare.

Agreeing to disagree

A concern co-pay-free birth control poses – particularly when it is taxpayer-financed – is that it may run afoul of the religious conscience of some, said Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council.

“Say, for example, that I had a problem with it; I would be paying into a plan that would be covering them,” Monahan said. “In a way, I would be forced to pay for it myself.”

Abortion is another concern critics cite. The argument is that some emergency contraceptives like Plan B and similar “morning after pills” constitute early-term abortion because it prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Experts predict that the government’s response to the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation for birth control without co-pays will be known within a week.

The importance of affordable birth control

Sources

Affordable Care Act: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/introduction/index.html

NPR: http://n.pr/qD7ByH

PlanB One Step: http://bit.ly/qhqGbp

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