Thursday, June 3, 2010

Is birth control preventive care?

With too-high teen pregnancy and abortion rates in this country, activists are hoping the recent passage of a health care reform law is an opportunity for millions of women to gain access to free or low-cost birth control. Under the new law, preventive services — like immunizations, cancer screenings and other wellness checkups — must be offered to consumers as part of their insurance policy, at no additional out-of-pocket charge, starting in September 2010.

Currently, contraception is not "preventive care" as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), but why shouldn't it be? As if she could anticipate the debate, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) sponsored an amendment that would broaden the care available for women: "with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings not described in paragraph (1) as provided for in comprehensive guidelines." Though the amendment doesn't mention birth control specifically, Mikulski spokeswoman Rachel MacKnight has said, "From her perspective, that includes everything from heart disease screening and diabetes screening to mammograms to birth control."

In parallel to the new legislation, Planned Parenthood for one is using this year's 50th anniversary of the Pill as an agent for public action.

"2010 marks the 50th anniversary of The Pill. Today, though we've come a long way, countless women lack reliable access to The Pill. In the coming months, federal officials will consider measures that will dramatically increase access," the organization noted.

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