(CBS) Should the government mandate free birth control for all women? That was yesterday's recommendation from an expert panel of government medical advisers. It thinks the Obama administration should require insurance companies to cover contraceptives as preventive care - meaning without a copay. But the news that birth control would be free has only added fuel to the fire for the much heated debate.
The Institute of Medicine's plan would cover birth control for all women, including morning-after pills and longer lasting forms of contraception like IUDs. The IOM argued not only would birth control prevent unwanted pregnancies, but it can make a woman's next pregnancy healthier by spacing births farther apart.
Some advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League hailed the IOM's recommendations, as many U.S. women struggle to afford birth control every day, and are deterred by the price, which can be as little as under 10 dollars for the uninsured.
"Covering birth control without co-pays is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent unintended pregnancy and keep women and children healthy," Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a written statement. "These services need to be accessible for women."
But Catholic and conservative groups across the country are outraged that the government would step in on something they disagree with so strongly.
"I strongly oppose the Institute of Medicine's recommendation today," Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a written statement. "Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible."
For some the debate comes down to what type of contraception would be covered.
Jeanne Monahan, director of Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity, takes issue that the plan will also cover the morning-after pills such as Ella and Plan B . Many Americans are against abortion, so forcing them to pay for a plan that covers emergency contraception may violate their beliefs. "A federal mandate to all insurance plans to include drugs such as Ella essentially would mandate coverage for abortion," she said in a statement. Mandating coverage of such drugs would violate the principles of conscience rights laws," Monahan added.
Needless to say, this battle won't be going away any time soon.
"These politicians are so out of touch with our country's mainstream values that they will try to derail the promise of no-cost birth control, and we will fight them every step of the way," ," Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement.
What do you think? Should the government mandate free birth control for all women?