IOM Obamacare Decision Wrongly Assumes Pregnancy a Disease

Opinion   |   Bob Laird   |   Jul 20, 2011   |   10:25AM   |   Washington, DC

A good friend and pro-life OB-GYN physician once told me of a sign posted in the residency offices of a prominent teaching hospital in Washington. It simply read, “Stamp out Pregnancy.”

Today the government moved closer to that omen with the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that women should be able to receive contraceptives and sterilization procedures free under their personal and employee health care plan.  “The full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilizations procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.” (Recommendation 5.5)

This recommendation was presented to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a list of preventative health care services for women which should be covered without reimbursement in new health plans under the federal health reform law (ObamaCare).  HHS is expected to announce its final ruling in August of this year.

Preventative services in traditional medicine include: blood pressure and cholesterol screening; counseling on obesity and tobacco cessation; routine immunizations; diabetes, cancer, and sexually transmitted infection screenings; and so on.  These services emphasize the prevention of serious illness and/or disease.  Such prevention can provide an early warning for subsequent successful treatment of illness or disease.  Such services have no side effects.

Contraception does not fall within the category of preventative health services.  These drugs, devices, and procedures prevent the bringing of children into the world.  Contraception only prevents disease or serious illness if one considers pregnancy to be a disease or serious illness.  Pregnancy is not an illness or disease, nor are children the side effect or the unintended by-product of disease.

Further, contraception often fails to prevent pregnancy.  Both a 2008 study by the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s research arm, shows that 48% of women with unintended pregnancies and 54% of women seeking abortions were using a form of contraception during the month they became pregnant. During the first 12 months of contraceptive use, 16.4% of teen girls become pregnant.  If the teen is cohabitating with a male, that rises to 47%.  Among low-income cohabiting teens, the failure rate for birth control pills is 48.4% and with condoms is rises to 71.7%.[1]

Contraception is also identified as a means of reducing the number of abortions in the United States.  A November 2006 report in Obstetrics and Gynecology, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed publications in the field, reviewed 23 studies, and found that greater access to emergency contraception did not decrease the incidence of unintended pregnancy or abortion rates.[2] In simple language, the use of emergency contraception as a means of preventing abortion simply does not work!

I had the opportunity to testify in November 2010 at the public comment period during the first hearing offered by the Institute of Medicine, which was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences.  I was representing Tepeyac Family Center, the largest pro-life OB-GYN practice of its kind in the United States.   The panel and speakers during the invited segment of the hearing included many individuals who had ties with Planned Parenthood.  As a matter of fact, nowhere on the panel were there any representatives of the Catholic Church – which has 557 hospitals and served over 83 million patients in 2008.[3] The selective omission of any Catholic representatives from the panel was a clear sign by the Institute of Medicine that their opinion was not welcomed.

The insertion of contraception and sterilization methods into the list of preventative services for women is clearly an initiative which is designed to bring contraception, sterilization, and abortion into the mainstream of American medicine.  Contraceptive failures create pregnancies.  Unwanted pregnancies lead to abortions.  Sterilization permanently destroys a healthy functioning part of the body.  This is the bread-and-butter of the pro-abortion movement – to promote sex using birth control, and then have abortion readily available as the backstop for contraceptive failure.

Even though poll after poll shows that this is not what the majority of American people want, this is what the Obama administration is providing to every American courtesy of President Obama’s health care reform law.  The slippery slope of making contraceptive birth control, sterilization procedures, and subsequently abortion, available on demand is now closer to reality. Note: Bob Laird is a fellow at HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International, and is the former Director of Tepeyac Family Center.  He writes from Lorton, Virginia.

[1] H. Fu et al., “Contraceptive Failure Rates: New Estimates from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth,” Family Planning Perspectives 31 (1999): 56-63 at 61.

[2] E. Raymond et al., “Population effect of Increased Access to Emergency Contraceptive Pills:  A Systematic Review,” Obstetrics & Gynecology 109.1 (January 2007): 181-8.

[3] The Official Catholic Directory 2008, p. 2003.