What free birth control means (and doesn’t mean)

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:

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

4 thoughts on “What free birth control means (and doesn’t mean)

  1. What does this mean for teens, though? Will there be an age requirement to have birth control? Or will any teen on their parent’s health insurance be able to get it for free as well?
    Either way, I think this is a great idea.

  2. Pingback: Why the Mississippi “personhood amendment” failed « FemThreads

  3. Pingback: Birth control: it’s more than family planning for me. It’s life planning too. « FemThreads

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