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Panel says birth control should be free; opponents cry foul Posted: July 21st, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

When the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued its recommendations earlier this week on preventive health for women, it unleashed a firestorm of controversy. Although the IOM identified eight services it says should be provided to women free of charge, it was the inclusion of birth control on the list that has generated the most debate.

According to the Committee on Preventive Services for Women, which authored the report, half of all U.S. pregnancies in 2001 were unintended. In addition, the group comments that women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to delay prenatal care, drink or smoke during pregnancy or give birth to low weight newborns. Therefore, the panel recommends the government mandate health insurance coverage of birth control without any co-payment or deductible requirements.

Opponents, such as the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, point out the recommendations would mean the inclusion of the "morning-after" pill which can act as an abortifacient. In addition, they argue a mandate would essentially require individuals to financially support--through their medical insurance premiums and tax dollars--methods they find morally objectionable.

The committee recommendations are not binding and have been sent to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for consideration.