Duuuuuuude! Birth control will soon be FREE!
How did this happen? The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has some sort of magical power to make sweeping regulatory decisions. Its latest decision mandates that private insurance plans cover women’s preventative services with no co-pays, starting on Jan. 1, 2013.
It’s not just birth control that’s covered under those preventative services; there are other “well-woman” services required for free too. But the free-BC mandate is what’s making a big splash, especially because emergency contraception (the morning-after pill) is also included.
This, of course, freaked a lot of conservative folks way the eff out, who began making all sorts of life-is-precious and women-are-whores kind of arguments. There is a religious exemption to the regulation, so religious employers won’t have to allow their insurance plans to follow it. But the fact that women will get free BC is still ruffling lots of feathers in a whole conservative kerfuffle (women wanting to be responsible parents: how upsetting!).
Here are the facts, friends:
- Half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended.
- Many of those pregnancies end up being publicly funded. Check out this map. In traditionally conservative Texas, 74 percent of unintended pregnancies end up receiving state support. In Louisiana, it’s 80 percent.
- Taxpayers (we the people) pay roughly $11 billion for those pregnancies each year.
While I applaud the HHS for their mandate, I still have a few concerns. What about the folks who don’t have health insurance? More than 50 million were uninsured last year. That’s one in six U.S. residents who won’t be helped by the change. And what about teen pregnancy, which increased for the first time since 1990, according to an estimate last year?
Yes, free birth control will help decrease the amount of unwanted pregnancies. But those who can’t afford insurance certainly can’t afford more children and thus must have access to birth control. Teens also need access to contraception and sex education.
We should be pleased that the HHS has stepped in to cover such important preventative care. But there are plenty of people who won’t be affected by this change, which means unintended pregnancy will still be a huge problem.
–By Tara Cavanaugh