The Institute of Medicine (IOM), the non-partisan panel commissioned by the Obama Administration to select the preventative health services that all insurance plans should fully cover under the Affordable Care Act, has recommended that the plans be legally required to offer free birth control to patients.
The IOM also suggested that health insurers pay for HPV testing, contraceptive and lactation counseling, HIV screening and breast-feeding equipment.
"As someone who has worked on women's rights for nearly 30 years, I can say that today's news marks one of the biggest advances for women's health in a generation," said Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Currently, nearly one in three women finds it difficult to pay for birth control, and that's why the United States has a far higher unintended-pregnancy rate than other industrialized countries. Making family-planning services available at no cost will help millions of women prevent unintended pregnancy and thereby reduce the need for abortion."
On the flip side, anti-abortion rights and anti-contraception groups are calling for the Obama Administration to reject the IOM's recommendations because they believe that some emergency contraceptives function as "abortion pills."
"This is a question of whether the government should mandate every health plan to cover these drugs free of cost," said Jeanne Monahan, Director of Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity. "Whatever one's position is on the issues of contraceptives, abortifacients and such, it does not matter whether proponents of such drugs do not care about the effect on human embryos. The point is that many Americans do care, and many religious health plans would care, and that they should not be forced to violate their conscience."