Government mandates free birth control for women

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by JANET ST JAMES

WFAA

Posted on August 1, 2011 at 5:00 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 1 at 5:38 PM

Sweeping new guidelines announced Monday morning are aimed at helping women have the chance to stop health problems before they start.

Women won't have to do anything to be eligible and it won't cost a cent to participate.

Beginning in Jan. 2013, all private health insurance plans will be required to cover women's preventive services without a co-pay or deductible.

Half of all women, according to studies quoted by the government, forgo or delay preventive medical care because they can't afford it.

Among some of the benefits, the new guidelines force insurers to cover well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, breast-feeding support, and FDA approved birth control methods. That includes birth control pills, IUD's, and emergency contraception like the controversial morning after pill, called Plan B.

Government officials say preventing unwanted pregnancies is only one goal.

"Most private health care plans," said White House adviser Stephanie Cutter. "Including the private health care plan available to members of Congress already include most of these services. Family planning is something that keeps women healthy."

Birth control use is virtually universal in the United States, according to a government study issued last summer. Generic versions of the pill are available for as little as $9 a month.

Some statistics indicate that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Many are among women using some form of contraception, who forget to use it.

Those who oppose the new guidelines argue that covering contraception and the morning after pill uses federal tax dollars for potential abortions.

"It's a so called Pandora's box," said Becky Visosky, Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas. "Once you open it, it's always the concern of how bad is it going to get. And the moral concerns of me as a taxpayer or anyone else in the country having to support something that goes against their religious beliefs."

Once the new rules go into effect, women will receive benefits automatically.

Critics say insurance premiums will have to rise. Supporters say premiums won't be affected because insurance companies will actually save money on expensive, unplanned pregnancies.

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