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August 1, 2011

Obama Administration Scores Victory for Sound Science and Women’s Access to Contraception

NARAL Pro-Choice America commends Secretary Sebelius for accepting experts’ recommendation, reinforces call for ensuring that all women, regardless of where they work, should have access to this new benefit

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, commended Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius for accepting an expert panel’s recommendation that family planning be considered preventive health care.  Now, newly issued insurance plans must cover the full range of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraception at no cost.

The federal health-care law requires newly issued health plans to cover—at no cost—certain preventive-health services that are specific to women. HHS appointed an Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel to recommend which services should be included. The panel of leading women’s health experts recommended fully covering family-planning care. Secretary Sebelius’ decision to adopt this recommendation will make no-cost contraception a benefit required by law.

“Secretary Sebelius’ decision to follow a science-based recommendation will improve women’s access to affordable basic health care, including contraception,” Keenan said. “Women will realize the importance of this decision every time they go to the pharmacy counter and pick up their birth control without paying a copay. Currently, one in three women finds it difficult to pay for birth control, and the United States has a far higher unintended-pregnancy rate than other industrialized countries. The vast majority of Americans supports making family-planning services available at no cost. They know this change in policy will help millions of women prevent unintended pregnancy and thereby reduce the need for abortion.”

Keenan also said her organization notes with reservation that the administration is proposing to allow certain employers to opt out of the requirements. NARAL Pro-Choice America believes that all women should have access to contraceptive coverage, regardless of their employer.

In November 2010, NARAL Pro-Choice America testified before the IOM panel and joined all 21 of its state affiliates in calling for coverage of family-planning services at no cost. In addition, the organization worked with its affiliates to educate younger Americans about the promise of no-cost birth control at 35 college campuses. In June, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation launched a Facebook application where individuals may determine how much money they could save if birth control were available without a copay. In addition, the organization marshaled more than 50,000 Americans to sign a petition urging HHS to make no-cost birth control a reality.

 “Americans are united behind the commonsense goal that improving women’s access to birth control is the best way to prevent unintended pregnancy,” Keenan said. “Ninety-eight percent of women use contraception at some point in their lives. Americans know that birth control is basic health care, so it is imperative that as many women as possible benefit from this change. We cannot allow room for policies that curtail women’s access to necessary health-care services. “

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