Panel Told: Don’t Put More Abortion, Birth Control Funding in ObamaCare

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 16, 2010   |   6:53PM   |   Washington, DC

Representatives of pro-life groups told the Institute of Medicine today that the agency should not declare abortion or birth control as “preventive” care under the ObamaCare health care law.

They addressed the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Preventive Services for Women, which has been besieged by Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion groups looking to expand their federal funding by getting abortion or birth control declared preventative.

Having that designation could allow the federal government to force insurance companies to cover abortions or birth control under ObamaCare.

The committee allotted time on the meeting agenda for Carolyn Westhoff of the Planned Parenthood abortion business and Judy Waxman of the pro-abortion National Women’s Law Center to testify.

But the two pro-life advocates were forced to deliver remarks during the general public comment portion at the end of the meeting.

Jeanne Monahan, director of Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, called for excluding the controversial items — saying adding abortion and birth control or contraception as preventative services would violate the conscience rights of Americans who opposed them and oppose paying for them.

“The committee should not recommend the inclusion of abortion as a means of preventing pregnancy. FRC rejects any suggestion that ‘abortion is healthcare’ or that pregnancy is a disease,” Monahan said. “Including abortion, whether medical or surgical, as a mandated, free-of-charge preventive care service would further expand abortion in the health care law and undermine the conscience rights of many in the health care profession.”

When it comes to contraception and birth control, Monahan said they, too, should be excluded.

“By their very nature, contraceptive services are elective and not medically necessary. They should not be placed in the same category as other basic types of medical care,” she told the committee.

Monahan is also concerned because drugs that have been approved by the FDA to be categorized legally as ’emergency contraceptives’ can destroy unborn children, such as the ella drug and, sometimes, the Plan B pill.

“Any mandates on abortion coverage would expand taxpayer funding for abortion, and inclusion of contraceptives would undermine conscience protections that President Obama promised would be maintained,” Monahan said.

Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined Monahan during the testimony.

“As you study the vital question of preventive services for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), I urge you to focus on services that will offer authentic care and save lives,” she said.

McQuade also urged that sterilization not be included as well.

“To prevent pregnancy is not to prevent a disease—indeed, contraception and sterilization pose their own unique and serious health risks to women and adolescents. In addition, contraceptives and sterilization are morally problematic for many stakeholders, including religiously-affiliated health care providers and insurers,” she said.

“Use of prescription contraception actually increases a woman’s risk of developing some of the very conditions that the ‘preventive services’ listed in the Interim Final Rules are designed to prevent, such as stroke, heart attacks and blood clots (especially for women who also smoke), so a policy mandating contraceptive services as ‘preventive services’ would be in contradiction with itself,” she continued.

McQuade added, “At various times women may have serious personal reasons for wanting to avoid or delay a pregnancy. However, these personal reasons do not transform a temporary or permanent condition of infertility into a prerequisite for health, or turn a healthy pregnancy into a disease condition.”

The Catholic bishops official also highlighted the potential impact on conscience rights.

“Currently, such employers and insurance issuers [who object to contraception and sterilization] are completely free under federal law to purchase and offer health coverage that excludes these procedures,” she explained. “They would lose this freedom of conscience under a mandate for all plans to offer contraception and sterilization coverage.”

“Thus the Administration’s promise that Americans who like their current coverage will be able to keep it under health care reform would become a hollow pledge,” she concluded.

The battles come over the Mikulski amendment, which pro-life advocates warned about when it was added to the legislation.

The amendment allows the federal government to define what constitutes “preventive services” that new private health plans must cover without cost-sharing by consumers as required under the federal health reform law. During the ObamaCare debate, pro-life groups said the Obama administration could determine birth control or abortions were “preventative” and force taxpayers to shell out millions to cover the cost of them.

Planned Parenthood rolled out the campaign with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a medical group that has become increasingly politicized.

If Planned Parenthood is successful, private insurance plans would be forced, and thereby insured enrollees would be forced, to pay for birth control through their premiums.

The Department of Health and Human Services will announce next August whether abortions or birth control and contraception qualify along with other mandated “preventive services.”