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Independent panel recommends providing free birth control

by nickj on July 20, 2011

In a move that is sure to raise the ire of opponents of Planned Parenthood, a panel of doctors and health experts recommended that health plans should cover contraceptives for women without co-pays. The Los Angeles Times reports the findings will likely set up a debate over the provisions of the healthcare bill President Obama signed into law last year.

The recommendations comes as part of study commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services to find out which preventative measures should be covered by insurance companies, in addition to items such as cancer screenings and immunizations.

The panel suggested that coverage should include a wide range of contraceptives as well as patient education. According to the news source, they came to the conclusion based on the fact that around half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Their findings were lauded by many women's health advocates as well as Democratic leaders.

"Making family-planning services available at no cost will help millions of women prevent unintended pregnancy and thereby reduce the need for abortion," said NARAL Pro-Choice America's Nancy Keenan.

In addition to the possibility of free birth control pills and other devices, Time magazine reports the panel also suggests ways to improve care for pregnant women, specifically offering more support for women who choose to breastfeed as well as providing more universal gestational diabetes testing.

The report comes at a time when women's health centers have come under fire by spending-conscious Republicans who are looking for ways to slash money from the budget. In particular, a New Hampshire panel (comprised entirely of GOP member) recently voted to suspend funding to Planned Parenthood in the state, a move which has affected an estimated 120 low-income women each day.

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