The contraception controversy: what’s really going on?


As many of us may have noticed by now, the media has been busy not only covering the riveting details of Whitney Houston’s untimely death, but also the recently surfaced contraceptive debate. So before we dive into what really is being argued, here are the facts:

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 [otherwise known as Obamacare], requires new private health plans written on or after August 1, 2012 to cover contraceptive counseling and services and all FDA-approved methods without out-of-pocket costs to patients.”

This bill was then modified after severe criticism from the Republicans, who argued that this bill was directly violating the right to religious freedom. President Obama then presented a compromise which now specifies that any employer – that is either a church or has a specific religious affiliation – does not have to provide female contraceptive coverage directly, but must provide their employees with an insurer that will offer female contraception for no out-of-pocket cost for the patient. Employers that have not yet made this change must be in compliance with the law within the year.

Even with this compromise, there is still major opposition to this bill which has kept it as a main issue in the Republican Primary Debates, in Congress, and in regards to media coverage. This debate has gotten so out of control that there is now a bill that Republicans are trying to pass in Missouri “that would let employers refuse to provide health insurance coverage for birth control, abortions, and sterilization procedures” (AP). This bill is attempting to be passed on the precedent that any/all employers should not have to provide medical services that they find morally objectionable.

In my opinion, all of this has gotten way out of hand. First of all, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognized “that an employer’s failure to provide coverage of contraception, when it covers other prescription drugs and preventive care, is a violation of protections against sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; those protections for employees’ benefits include no exemption for religious employers”(“Insurance Coverage of Contraceptives”, Guttmacher Institute), and this was back in December 2000.

Secondly, let’s take a look at the amount of women who use female contraception. A study done by the Guttmacher Institute provided a statistic (one that has been popularly quoted in the media and in debate) that says 98% of Catholic women have used a method of female contraception at one point in their lives. The opposition parties to this bill have focused in on this statistic, stating that it is a gross overestimate and criticized that it is a biased study because it was performed by an institute that was once a branch of Planned Parenthood. I was interested in this discrepancy and looked at the data, and here is what I found:

-The study was done on Catholic women in the U.S. between the ages of 15-44

-2% use natural family planning

-11% use no method at all

-87% have used a method of birth control at some point during their lives

Even if this study had a slight bias, over 80% of Catholic women of childbearing age have used contraceptives in their lifetime. Religions constantly change and evolve, and maybe this practice in the Catholic religion is becoming outdated.  The fact that women don’t have a representative voice in our government (they have an average of only 16.9%of the seats in each the House and the Senate), remains a major problem, especially when women’s health care continues to be debated while Viagra is widely considered an essential medicine to be covered by insurance.

Then 27 states already require insurers to cover female birth control, and I believe that this debate continues to remain a major issue because politicians are scared to talk about the real issues at hand, like the lack of confidence in the U.S. Economy, the continued Euro crisis, and the possible ramifications if Greece actually does collapse.