Five Reasons Why IOM’s Contraception Recommendations Are Noncontroversial

RH Reality Check’s Jodi Jacobson offers the best take on why the controversy surrounding the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations that health care plans in the exchanges offer all FDA-approved contraceptives and several other preventative services at no additional cost sharing is only controversial in the minds of a small group of anti-abortion zealots. The reality is that the guidelines will “essentially extend to the exchange plans the same coverage that is currently provided by most employer-sponsored plans as well as the Federal Employees Health Benefits program” and are in line not only with the “the existing guidelines and evidence on the effectiveness of different preventive treatments,” but also with the views of the majority of Americans.

As Jacobson points out, “the IOM recommendations make eminent sense, whether you are concerned about individual rights, public health, or financial responsibility.” Below are five reasons why the recommendations are critical and noncontroversial:

1) WILL REDUCE UNINTENDED PREGNANCIES: Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Approximately seven in 10 women of reproductive age (43 million women) are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they and their partners fail to use a contraceptive method.

2) UNINTENDED PREGNANCIES LEAD TO WORSE HEALTH OUTCOMES: Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.

3) WILL LOWER GOVT SPENDING: Unintended pregnancy costs U.S. taxpayers roughly $11 billion each year. A study by Adam Sonfield and colleagues at the Guttmacher Institute found that two-thirds of births resulting from unintended pregnancies — more than 1 million births — are publicly funded, and the proportion tops 80 percent in a couple of states.

4) MOST WOMEN ALREADY USE CONTRACEPTION: More than 99 percent of all women ages 15 to 44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. Overall, 62 percent of the 62 million women ages 15 to 44 are currently using a method of contraception.

5) MOST AMERICANS SUPPORT CONTRACEPTION: A national poll conducted in May of this year, found that 88 percent of voters, including four in five Republicans, support women’s access to contraception. Most Americans think that improving women’s access to contraception is a more effective way to reduce the number of abortions than enacting more restrictive abortion laws.

IOM’s guidelines are not binding, but most observers expect HHS to adopt its recommendations. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised the committee’s work as historic and said it was “based on science and existing literature.’’ “We are reviewing the report closely and will release the department’s recommendations…very soon,’’ she said.