One of the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the new health reform law, is a "preventive care" provision that requires that insured patients have access to evidence-based preventive services at no additional cost. Expensive co-payments or deductibles often discourage people from obtaining necessary health care services, including preventive care. Many vaccines, for instance, will be considered as preventive care under the new law, along with cancer screenings and counseling to help patients manage certain health conditions. As a result of the ACA, the Department of Health and Human Services is also compiling an additional set of preventive services that would be covered for women. Most would agree this would include contraception, a common basic practice that helps families be stable, healthy, and secure.
It turns out that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, however, objects to this. Despite the fact that more than 99 percent of sexually active women have used contraception, the bishops say that contraception should not be included in the preventive care package. The bishops cite conscience and religious belief as the reason for wanting to shape regulations in this realm. One problem with their thinking is that their religious beliefs regarding contraception are in conflict with the religious beliefs and conscience of millions of Americans. There’s nothing wrong with advocating one’s doctrinal views in the public square. But it is something else entirely to seek to impose one’s doctrinal views on those with different beliefs.
Reams of studies have consistently demonstrated that contraception is a safe and cost-effective way to reduce unintended pregnancies and a host of preventable health problems affecting both women and children. Even so, there is still political debate as to whether to include contraception in the list of approved preventive services for women. The Department of Health and Human Services—which is responsible for issuing the final rules—has charged the independent, nonpartisan Institute of Medicine to examine the evidence and recommend whether or not contraception should be included in the list of health services that count as "preventive care."
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