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Access to Contraception is Basic Health Care. Don't Let Religious Organizations Limit Access

Written by Douglas Laube forRH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.
This article is based on testimony submitted by Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) on November 2, 2011, to the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health Hearing on Conscience Clauses and Contraceptive Mandates. PRCH is a doctor-led national advocacy organization that relies upon evidence-based medicine to promote sound reproductive health policies.
PRCH supports the recent recommendation of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to include contraception in the preventive health benefits [1] for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) [2] and the decision of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt this recommendation in its draft regulations. [3] As physicians, we know that access to contraception is essential to the health and well-being of our patients. About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. [4] Regular use of contraception prevents unintended pregnancy and reduces the need for abortion. [5] Contraception also allows women to determine the timing and spacing of pregnancies, protecting their health and improving the well-being of their children. [6] Contraceptive use saves money by avoiding the costs of unintended pregnancy and by making pregnancies healthier, saving millions in health care expenses. [7] Several contraceptives also have non-contraceptive health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of certain cancers and treating debilitating menstrual problems.[8] Making contraception more affordable is a significant step forward for the health of women and their families. PRCH appreciates the decision of HHS to include in the draft regulations the coverage of all forms of birth control,[9] allowing patients to access to the method that best meets their needs. Contraceptive methods vary and women with their health care providers need to be free to select from the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives. Not all contraceptives are clinically appropriate for every woman. [10] We also know that women and couples are more likely to use contraception successfully when they are given their contraceptive method of choice, be it a birth control pill, a vaginal ring, or an intrauterine device (IUD).[11] The draft regulations hold the promise of making contraception more affordable and easier to access for millions of women. While we strongly support the inclusion of contraception as preventive care, we are deeply troubled by the provisions that exempt certain employers from compliance. The draft regulations threaten to compromise the very important protections they would put in place. As physicians who care for patients who may be deprived of the affordable contraceptive coverage that all women deserve, we outline our concerns in the comments below. Continue reading....