Insurance coverage of birth control stirs debate


Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

An advisory question to gauge public opinion on birth control will be part of the ballot for the midterm elections on Tuesday.

The question will ask if health insurance companies should be required to cover prescriptions for birth control as part of their normal coverage.

Ryan Woods, the president of EIU College Democrats, said this should be covered, and it already is under the Affordable Care Act.

Under the Affordable Care Act, 29.7 million women have gained additional care under their private health insurances, which does cover contraceptive services, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.

Woods said this is a type of question to see how the public feels about certain issues; depending on how the question is received, it could be used as a platform to run on for further elections. He said birth control coverage could become the next hot-button topic.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the Health and Human Service mandate requires companies to provide and facilitate health essentials including contraceptives.

However, in the July 2013 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to protect companies from covering potential life-threatening forms of birth control because of religious reasons.

Woods said the ruling was ridiculous because theoretically the company could cite religious reasons in order to deny other acts or bills. He added this case could also be used as a reference for other companies to deny laws as well.

“In an extreme case, it would be possible they could use religious aspects to re-implement Jim Crow laws—it wouldn’t happen, but theoretically (it could),” Woods said.

The question itself is also subject to controversy, as some believe it is only on the ballot in order to bait Democratic voters, Woods said.

Woods said upholding birth control being covered by some health insurance companies could benefit the U.S. in the long run because it can combat poverty rates.

He said low birth rates have a correlation to low poverty rates as well; it would also allow access to safe contraceptives.

Woods said those who say no to the question could be doing so because of sexism, but they could also have religious reasons for opposing birth control.

“Most insurance covers Viagra, but some don’t cover birth control,” Woods said.

Jeannie Ludlow, the coordinator of women’s studies, said if those who challenge the Affordable Care Act are successful, states could issue referendums to make sure it becomes a state mandated law and not a federal.

However, like Woods, Ludlow agrees that the questions is nonsensical because there is already a law put in place to protect birth control coverage, but she said this question is possibly being used to get more Democrats to vote.

Ludlow said having birth control covered by insurance benefits everyone, but she does see why there are those who would disagree with having the pills or injections covered.

Some people who disagree with birth control and see it as a way of abortion are paying for this to be covered through their tax dollars, Ludlow said.

Hobby Lobby does cover Viagra, but is also only against some forms of birth control and not all of them. Ludlow said the company does not agree with the contraceptives that keep a fertilized egg from implanting.

“Every moment we’re on this Earth we’re using resources, (birth control) really does make a difference,” Ludlow said. “Some people don’t think like that.”

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]