Free birth control may soon become a reality for all American women. In a report issued Tuesday by the Institute of Medicine, free access to all types of birth control and birth control counseling was one of eight recommendations made to the U.S. Department of Health Services as a way to fill the gaps in the preventative health care offered to women. While there is some controversy over this initiative most hail it as a great achievement for women’s health.
As part of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul all women will now have access to certain preventative health services free of a co-pay or deductable. To define the parameters for these services the Institute of Medicine reviewed what pressing issues affecting women are not currently being covered. With unplanned pregnancy accounting for nearly 50% of births in America it is obvious that women need better access to contraception and family planning counseling. If the department of health accepts these recommendations all women in the U.S. would have access to any FDA approved birth control method for zero out of pocket expense. The hope is to not only prevent unwanted pregnancies but to improve healthy spacing between births as well.
While overall there has been a positive reaction to the recommendation there has also been a small group of dissenters that feel that those opposed to birth control on principle should not be made to help subsidize birth control for others but with 1 in 3 women unable to pay their monthly co-pay and un-intended pregnancy rates higher than many other industrialized nations, making birth control more accessible might in the long run save tax payers and the health care system an enormous amount of money.
Birth control accessibility was just one of 8 recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine. Also on the agendas is to make HIV/AIDS testing part of a free annual evaluation for all sexually active women. With nearly 4,000 deaths from cervical cancer every year it was also recommended that women over the age of thirty get a HPV test once every three years. Suggestions have also been made about expanding the services available for women who have become pregnant including support for women who choose to breastfeed and testing for gestational diabetes. The final area of recommendations came in the form of informing and counseling women about abuse and domestic violence.
While it remains uncertain what recommendations will be adopted by the Department of Health and how much these new initiatives will cost, the hope remains. By giving all women access to certain free preventative medical services we will be able to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies which will in return reduce the need for abortion and by conducting regular health screenings we can reduce the spread of STD’s and reduce overall healthcare costs by catching these diseases early on.