Court cases related to a provision in the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, to provide preventive health services generated a great deal of media coverage over the past couple weeks—much of it misleading. Newspaper headlines and television pundits around the country may have inadvertently led many Americans to believe that the court and justices’ actions dealt a severe setback to providing contraception without copayments to women insured through the ACA. While the cases assert that employers’ religious freedom is under fire, it is instead a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and her religious liberty that are under attack.
According to a review by an independent panel at the Institute of Medicine, providing women with contraception and other preventive services without requiring copayments is cost effective and allows women to access medically sound care under the ACA. Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended—and these pregnancies can lead to poor health outcomes for women and children—measures to prevent unintended pregnancies, such as contraception, were included in the ACA-covered services. In addition, data from multiple studies show that women who cannot afford preventive services—such as mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and contraception—due to high copayments or out-of-pocket costs often avoid accessing these life-saving services.
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