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HAGELIN: Contraception edict tramples conscience

- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2011

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 Department of Health and Human Services regulations that require insurers to cover the costs of contraceptives, emergency contraceptives, sterilization and contraceptive counseling as "preventive care," with no out-of-pocket cost to women?

Three things, for starters. First, the regulations deny consumers the right to choose the kinds of coverage and preventive care for which they are willing to pay. Next, 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. Finally, 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 the other societal problems that typically accompany sexual activity among unmarried women. (See pages 83 through 85 of the July report released by the Institute of Medicine at

Why now, anyway?

The new HHS regulations arose out of Obamacare-mandated coverage of preventive care. A panel from the IOM gathered evidence (including data from friendly pro-choice 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. A Heritage Foundation blog post 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 such as 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 ella destroys new human life.

How to Save Your Family: Insist on Conscience Protection

Regardless of your 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 representative in Congress, urging him or her to vote for the bipartisan legislation proposed by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska Republican, and Dan Boren, Oklahoma Democrat, 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!

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosave

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