Pro-Life Spokesperson Urges Institute of Medicine Committee to Focus on Life-Saving Preventive Health Services for Women, Exclude Contraception, Sterilization
WASHINGTON (November 16, 2010) — Deirdre McQuade, spokesperson for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressed the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Preventive Services for Women as they convened for the first time on November 16th.
“As you study the vital question of preventive services for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), I urge you to focus on services that will offer authentic care and save lives,” she said.
Echoing the letter sent by the Office of the General Counsel to HHS on September 17, McQuade said, “The Conference has a particular concern that contraceptives and sterilization not be mandated as ‘preventive’ services. To prevent pregnancy is not to prevent a disease—indeed, contraception and sterilization pose their own unique and serious health risks to women and adolescents. In addition, contraceptives and sterilization are morally problematic for many stakeholders, including religiously-affiliated health care providers and insurers.”
According to McQuade, the preventive services recommended under the Interim Final Rules share a basic medical profile. “They pose little or no medical risk themselves, and they help prevent or ameliorate identifiable conditions that would pose known risks to life and health in the future,” McQuade said, but contraception “presents the opposite profile.”
She continued, “Use of prescription contraception actually increases a woman’s risk of developing some of the very conditions that the ‘preventive services’ listed in the Interim Final Rules are designed to prevent, such as stroke, heart attacks and blood clots (especially for women who also smoke), so a policy mandating contraceptive services as ‘preventive services’ would be in contradiction with itself.”
McQuade added, “At various times women may have serious personal reasons for wanting to avoid or delay a pregnancy. However, these personal reasons do not transform a temporary or permanent condition of infertility into a prerequisite for health, or turn a healthy pregnancy into a disease condition.”
She also highlighted the potential impact on conscience rights. “Currently, such employers and insurance issuers [who object to contraception and sterilization] are completely free under federal law to purchase and offer health coverage that excludes these procedures. They would lose this freedom of conscience under a mandate for all plans to offer contraception and sterilization coverage,” McQuade said. “Thus the Administration’s promise that Americans who like their current coverage will be able to keep it under health care reform would become a hollow pledge.”
She concluded, “The Administration rightly does not include contraceptives or sterilization as preventive services in its Interim Final Rules, and future rulemaking or other guidance should also refrain from doing so. We hope these considerations will be taken into account as the Institute of Medicine prepares to make its recommendations on a final list of required preventive services for women.”
Keywords: Catholic bishops, USCCB, pro-life, Institute of Medicine, IOM, HHS, preventive services, health care, PPACA, women, adolescents, contraception, sterilization, birth control, conscience rights