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Columbia Missourian

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Obama's birth control policy preserves religious rights

By Robert Blake
March 27, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Almost one-half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, and almost one-half of these are terminated with an abortion. Unplanned pregnancies generate large financial and nonfinancial costs for society. Most women want to regulate their reproductive capacity. It is in the interests of individuals and society as a whole to assure women ready access to effective birth control. Unfortunately, some women who want it do not have such access.

Because each $1 spent on birth control saves $3.75 in health care expenses, the authoritative Institute of Medicine recommended that insurance companies participating in the insurance exchanges created by the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act be required to cover contraceptive services. The Obama Administration appropriately followed this recommendation, endorsing a policy that serves the dual desirable goals of providing valuable preventive care and containing costs. Rather than increasing costs that must be passed on in premiums, this requirement will reduce costs and might well result in lower premiums.

Numerous states already require insurance companies to cover birth control. The fact that Catholic officials, who have been so vociferous in objecting to the Obama decision, have passively accepted these state requirements raises questions about their motives for opposing the Obama policy. Under the administration's plan, employers who have religious objections to birth control are not required to provide a penny of support for the birth control services; thus, there is no violation of religious rights. This plan also protects employees from being denied access to desirable health care because of employer religious views. The plan actually preserves religious rights.

It appears this controversy was manufactured for political purposes.

Robert Blake is a Columbia resident and a retired family physician.