Narrowing Access to Birth Control Would Harm Women

October 10, 2017

Published in the Washington Post

Regarding the Oct. 8 editorial “A blight on birth control”:

The requirement that private health insurance plans cover the full cost of contraceptives without co-pay was an important victory for women’s health. New rules from the Department of Health and Human Services would allow nonprofit organizations and public and private companies to deny contraceptive coverage based on “sincerely held religious or moral objection.” Narrowing access to birth control is a politically motivated action that opposes scientific evidence and needlessly threatens women’s health.

As a clinical scientist and college president, I have devoted my life’s work to advancing science and promoting the education, health and well-being of women — and to making decisions based on facts. In 2010, I served on the Institute of Medicine’s committee (now the National Academy of Medicine) of 16 leading medical experts asked to identify essential clinical preventive services for women. We reviewed scientific evidence, listened to expert testimony and deliberated extensively for eight months before we reached a clear and unanimous conclusion: The ability to plan and space pregnancies is crucial to the health and well-being of women. Providing the full range of contraception without co-pay ensures that all women, regardless of income, have access to these essential services.

I hope that as this decision is examined in the courts, companies and institutions will continue to provide contraception without co-pay, a decision that, unlike the recent rule change, would be based on the best available data.

Paula Johnson, Wellesley, Mass.