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Latino Daily News

Saturday November 5, 2011

Do New Health Law Mandates Threaten Access to Birth Control?

Do New Health Law Mandates Threaten Access to Birth Control?

Photo: Birth Control

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Anti-choice House lawmakers launched the latest attack on women’s health and family planning on Wednesday. In a House subcommittee hearing entitled “Do New Health Law Mandates Threaten Conscience Rights and Access to Care?,” several lawmakers showed their true colors, arguing for the preferences of employers over the right of women to make their own contraceptive health decisions in consultation with their doctors.

“House lawmakers’ implicit support of refusal clauses is only the latest attack in the war on women”, said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Beliefs about prescription contraceptives are personal ones. It is unthinkable that a woman could be cut off from her ability to access legitimate medical and professional services solely because of the religious beliefs of her institutional employers.”

In August, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is in charge of promulgating the rules that will guide the implementation of health reform, recognized the vital role that family planning options play in maintaining women’s health and required that almost all health plans provide coverage for contraception and sterilization. Unfortunately the rule drafted by HHS contains an exception for certain religious employers.

Anti-birth control lawmakers have taken this proposed rule even further, drafting legislation (H.R. 1179) that would effectively grant consciences and moral compasses to a variety of healthcare institutions, including hospitals and health insurance plans, and legally authorizing them to refuse any care to anyone, if it would offend the institution to do otherwise.

“Eliminating expensive co-pays could open the door for many Latinas, who are disproportionately poor, to finally access the birth control of their choice.  National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health research shows that Latinas want the full range of birth control options available to them from the birth control pill to condoms to intrauterine devices (IUDs),” added González-Rojas. “We look forward to working with HHS more on this issue.”

Studies show that 98-99% of sexually active women have used a modern form of contraception. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 50% of women age 18-34, including Latinas, say there has been a time when cost of prescription birth control interfered with their ability to use it consistently.

Preventive care for all women produces better health outcomes for all and reflects the fundamental belief that access to quality health care is a human right.