The Obama administration announced new expanded women’s health regulations Monday, classifying contraceptives as preventive services and requiring that health insurers provide them without co-pays for customers.
According to a report by the Associated Press, “well-woman visits, support for breast-feeding equipment, contraception [including the morning-after pill] and domestic violence screening” will be covered by “requiring health plans to cover recommended preventive services without cost sharing.” The prevention of unplanned pregnancy is one goal of the new regulations, with advocates expecting that the lowered cost will encourage the consistent use of the birth control pill and create a higher demand for longer-term options such as hormonal implants.
A number of religious organizations, including the Catholic Church and the Family Research Council, have opposed the new regulations. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who runs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, recently wrote in opposition to the proposal that “pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.”
The Catholic Church is the largest single denomination in America and has perhaps the most conservative approach to contraception among all Christian churches, calling contraception immoral. The church teaches a fertility awareness and abstinence approach known as Natural Family Planning as an alternative, but recent studies show that 98 percent of Catholic women have used contraceptive methods officially rejected by the church. Most evangelical churches accept the use of contraceptives within marriage, but some conservative Christian organizations object to the government’s promotion of birth control.
The regulations do include religious exemptions, posted below (emphasis mine), but according to the AP, some some religious leaders have called the protections “insufficient” for certain religious organizations:
Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. A religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B).
Do you agree with the Obama administration’s decision to classify birth control (including the morning-after pill) as preventive health care?