08 February 2011

Free birth control for women improves women's health

From the NYT, Science:
[C]ontraceptives fit any reasonable definition of preventive health care because they avert[] unintended pregnancies and allow[] women to control the timing, number and spacing of births. This, in turn, improves maternal and child health by reducing infant mortality, complications of pregnancy and even birth defects[.]
Pregnancy is not a disease to be prevented, nor is fertility a pathological condition[. ...] So birth control is not preventive care, and it should not be mandated.
One, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists did not call pregnancy a disease. What pregnancy does is to increase health risks. Pregnancy, as compared to non-pregnancy, is a condition with an increased risk of illness, permanent disability, and death. Preventing pregnancy (or, of course, terminating a pregnancy) prevents (or ends) those risks.

Second, no one is trying to "mandate" birth control for anyone, as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is implying here. In fact, the "mandate" is for health insurance companies to cover birth control in a woman's basic plan, without charging extra fees in the form of co-pays or increased rates or deductibles for women who just happen to be in their childbearing years. This is because birth control is an integral part of women's preventive health care. The speaker for the bishops here is misleading her audience by deliberately twisting both the content of the health insurance law and the position of the ACOG.

Women are not fully in control of their health, lives, and destinies unless they can control their reproduction. When women do not have a full say in when and how often they bring a pregnancy to term, they cannot fully realize their potential. The ACOG recognizes this. The Catholic church -- and anyone else who would deny that family planning is preventive health care -- does not.

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