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November 1, 2010
Women could soon be entitled to free contraception, thanks to the health reform law. That's right, free birth control pills, free intrauterine devices, free patches, and free vaginal rings. As part of the law, a panel of experts will decide over the next few months which services will be offered free to women including maternity care, pelvic exams, and—more controversial—contraception. Many women spend as much as $50 a month for hormonal contraception or $200 to $400 to have an IUD inserted, yet some, squeezed by the recession, have found themselves skipping pills or going without birth control altogether. "We need to do everything we can to ensure that women have access to birth control," said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards at a press breakfast in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. Women, she added, shouldn't have to choose between birth control and basics like rent, tuition, and childcare.
To Richards, free contraception should be a no-brainer. Publicly-funded contraception saves taxpayers $4 for every $1 spent by preventing nearly 2 million pregnancies and 810,000 abortions every year, according to a 2009 report from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive research organization based in New York City. And a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office found that providing contraception to Medicaid patients would save $700 million over the next decade in medical costs.