Opposition To The IOM Guidelines Is Not About Abortion — It’s About Contraception

Yesterday, NPR’s Diane Rehm hosted a debate about the IOM’s recommendations that health care plans offer a wide array of reproductive services, including contraception, without additional co-pays. While the report has generally met with positive reviews, some on the right have argued that the IOM’s guidelines would increase abortions — by encouraging more women to have sex — or cover medications that induce abortions.

But during Rehm’s program, Helen Alvare — a George Mason University professor who opposes the policy — highlighted the real issue that’s causing some anti-choice conservatives to condemn the IOM: contraception:

REHM: One final question for you Helen. This one comes from Erin in Springfield, MO. Do you believe in birth control at all?

ALVARE: The–umm–to me, my specialty and the only thing I’ve brought to the table today and I assume others did too is what we know about the relationship between–uh–what the law does here in defining preventative care and what the conclusion is, and I guess if everybody here wanted to have a conversation about philosophical and theological beliefs we could do that.

REHM: But do you believe in birth control?

ALVARE: I think that that is a way of dodging my evidence and I would rather someone ask a question about the evidence I’ve brought to the table today.

Americans United for Life President Charmain Yoest had a strikingly similar reaction recently when challenged about why her organization — which drafts model legislation banning abortion for the states — does not promote access to safe contraception. Yoest first dismissed the question by saying that there are “differences of opinion” about expanding access to birth control, but then claimed that the issue is a “red herring.”


The goal of anti-abortion activists is to restrict access to both abortions and contraception. But to go after the latter, they try to conflate it with the former and flare up abortion fears even where none exist.