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HHS Requires Free Birth Control for Women

This week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new guidelines requiring health insurers to cover certain women’s preventative services, including birth control, HPV screenings, breastfeeding support and STD counseling.

The guidelines are based on the recommendations issued by the Institute of Medicine in July. According to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the decision is a part of the Affordable Care Act's move toward prevention. "These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need."

Many groups oppose the guidelines, citing that many people have moral and religious convictions against contraception. President Obama issued an amendment allowing religious groups who offer insurance coverage to employees the right to choose whether to cover contraception.

"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," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Supporters believe that covering contraception will helps the government save money by decreasing the number of unintended pregnancies, which accounted for 51 percent of publicly funded births in 2006. By reducing the numbers of unintended pregnancies, the move could save more than $11 billion in medical costs.

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