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This could be very good news:

Health insurers should pay for a range of services for women at no cost, including birth control, counseling on sexually transmitted diseases, and AIDS screening, the influential Institute of Medicine recommended on Tuesday. […]

The committee of experts named by the Institute identified eight preventive services that women should get for free, with no copays. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, an independent organization that advises the federal government on health and medical matters.
“The eight services we identified are necessary to support women's optimal health and well-being. Each recommendation stands on a foundation of evidence supporting its effectiveness,” Linda Rosenstock, dean of UCLA's School of Public Health, who chaired the panel, said in a statement.

The panel offered a total of eight recommendations:

  • screening for gestational diabetes
  • HPV testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30
  • counseling on sexually transmitted infections
  • counseling and screening for HIV
  • contraceptive methods and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies
  • lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding
  • screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence
  • yearly well-woman preventive care visits to obtain recommended preventive services

Including birth control in preventative health care is really a no-brainer. The many benefits of easy and affordable access to family planning in general, and birth control in particular, cannot be overstated. Family planning improves women's health, children's health, parents' relationships—and, oh yeah, it also happens to be very fiscally conservative.

There would be some exemptions to the plan. The Washington Post noted:

So-called “grandfathered” policies that have been in place since before Sept. 23, 2010, will be exempt from the new rules. However, such plans can lose grandfathered status if they make any number of changes to their coverage and payment policies, and their number is expected to dwindle rapidly in coming years.

Still, this is a great start to providing preventative health care for women. Which means that of course the zealots who oppose health care for women aren't happy about it. As NPR reported, the zealots intend to fight against the inclusion of family planning in the Affordable Care Act.

"There are two reasons we oppose the inclusion of contraceptives as a preventive service," says Jeanne Monahan. She's director of the Center for Human Dignity at the conservative Family Research Council.

One big problem, she says, is that requiring insurers to cover contraceptives violates the conscience rights of people who belong to religions that don't believe in artificial contraception. "Say for example that I had a problem with it; I would be paying into a plan that would be covering them," she says. "So in a way I would be forced to pay for it myself."

Yes, and as we all know, health care decisions for the country should be dictated by religious fundamentalists and what they're willing to pay for, right? But that's not the only problem for the zealots.

The other problem, says Monahan, is abortion. Specifically, abortion opponents argue that some emergency contraceptives — so called morning-after pills — can cause very early abortions by preventing the implantation of fertilized eggs into a woman's uterus.

Yeah, abortion opponents claim that contraception equals abortion. They're completely wrong, of course, but when it comes to the anti-woman fundamentalists, facts should never get in the way of the American Taliban's agenda.

Hopefully, Health and Human Services will ignore the protestations and implement these suggestions immediately.

Originally posted to Kaili Joy Gray on Tue Jul 19, 2011 at 01:41 PM PDT.

Also republished by Abortion and Daily Kos.

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