Conservatives are coming for your birth control

CONSERVATIVES ARE COMING FOR YOUR BIRTH CONTROL…. During the prolonged debate over health care reform, the most prominent “culture war” fight was over abortion, and whether the new law would allow indirect, circuitous public funding of it.

The issue of contraceptives — specifically, legally mandated coverage of contraceptives in American health care plans — didn’t generate much attention. Dana Goldstein has a fascinating report today about how that’s likely to soon change.

[T]he Daily Beast has learned that many conservative activists … are just waking up to the possibility that the new health care law could require employers and insurance companies to offer contraceptives, along with other commonly prescribed medications, without charging any co-pay. Now the Heritage Foundation and the National Abstinence Education Association say they plan to join the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in resisting implementation of the new provisions. […]

Currently, 27 states require insurers to cover birth control, but federal health reform has the potential to go much further — mandating that prescription birth control be offered to consumers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia free of “cost-sharing,” or payments at the pharmacy counter.

At issue are yet-to-be-written federal regulations on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Proponents of women’s health want changes to preventive-health-care guidelines to be made quickly, while the right gets organized to fight coverage of birth control.

Matt Yglesias sees a fight worth having.

Politically speaking, I think this is the fight progressives have been wanting to have for some time now — something that would highlight the deeply reactionary and anti-woman ideology that drives the main institutional players in the anti-abortion movement. But will it be possible to get people to pay attention?

It’s tough to predict what folks will care about, but this dispute offers clear upsides for the left. After all, family-planning programs are wildly popular, and contraceptives are commonly used nationwide. Goldstein also noted the business community is supportive: “A new report from the National Business Group on Health found that most companies would save money in the long run by providing their employees with co-pay-free birth control.”

Here’s hoping Obama administration officials ignore conservatives and pursue guidelines that are good politics and good policy.