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HHS Contraception Mandate Tramples Conscience

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Culture Challenge of the Week: Mandated Contraception Coverage

"Contraceptives for free? Sounds like a good idea, I think," Kelly, a married mother of three, mused aloud.

The vast majority of American women use contraceptives during their reproductive years. So what's wrong with the new HHS regulations that require insurers to cover the costs of contraceptives, emergency contraceptives, sterilizations, and contraceptive counseling as "preventive care," with no out-of-pocket cost to women?

Three things, for starters: the regulations deny consumers the right to choose the kinds of coverage and preventive care for which they are willing to pay; they ignore the conscience concerns of groups and individuals who believe it is immoral to pay for emergency contraception (early abortion) or other forms of contraception; and the ease of availability to teens can be viewed as an endorsement of teen sexual activity and is likely to increase such activity and lead to more STIs, HIV infections, and other societal problems that typically accompany sexual activity among unmarried women. (See p. 83-85 of the IOM report.)

Why now, anyway?

The new HHS regulations arose out of Obamacare-mandated coverage of preventive care. A panel from the Institute of Medicine gathered evidence (including data from friendly pro-abortion groups) and delivered its recommendations to HHS. The bottom line: in spite of the ready availability of free or low-cost contraceptives (in schools, clinics, and public health agencies), too many low-income women are still having babies—too many, that is, in the eyes of the IOM panel. The powers-that-be have decided to take matters into their own hands: the HHS regulations will push more expensive, long-lasting (and therefore more effective) contraceptives on poor and minority women—while the rest of us pay the bill through higher premiums on our own insurance.

It smells a bit like eugenics, doesn't it?

The regulations have other problems as well. The Heritage Foundation has pointed out that contraceptive coverage is not "free" at all, "it merely shifts all rather than some of their cost to other plan members," an unwelcome burden especially when individuals are required to participate in a particular plan. In addition, the regulations mark an escalation in "government micromanagement of health care," a situation that will result in "higher premiums and fewer coverage choices for all Americans."

Perhaps most disconcerting, the HHS mandate makes only a small nod to conscience concerns. The regulations grant a limited religious exemption, which allows an opt-out only for organizations whose purpose is the "inculcation of religious values" and which primarily serve and hire people of the same faith. Individuals and faith-based groups that serve broader purposes will have no choice but to sponsor or buy into insurance policies that include coverage for procedures that violate their religious beliefs.

Take "emergency contraception," for example. The new mandate lumps coverage of drugs like ella, which prevents a newly conceived embryo from implanting in the uterus, in with other contraceptives. Your premiums and mine will make that treatment possible, for thousands of women, whether we like it or not, even though many of us believe that ella destroys new human life.

How to Save Your Family: Insist on Conscience Protection

Regardless of your own position on the morality of contraceptives, take a stand in support of conscience protection for individuals and groups that do have moral concerns about contraceptives, including emergency contraception.

Contact your Congressional Representative, urging him or her to vote for the bi-partisan legislation proposed by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK), called the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011. This legislation offers a necessary check on the Obama Administration’s continuing efforts to override the conscience rights of believers, especially on matters related to sexuality and reproduction.

Make your voice heard! Tags: religious views on birth control, institute of medicine, birth control, hormonal contraception, emergency contraception, emergency contraceptive, preventive care, medicine, mandate, coverage, contraception, conscience, hhs META: New HHS regs mandate free contraceptive coverage as preventive care: they trample the conscience rights of believers and restrict Americans' economic choices.

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