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Call to Cover Contraception

Federal officials should make contraception one of the preventive services that private health plans will have to cover free of charge under health reform, says the Guttmacher Institute. The Affordable Care Act mandates that, starting in September, all new private health plans must provide preventive care and screening for women, without copayments or other cost sharing. The law states that the preventive services will be determined by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, made the case that including contraceptive services will reduce unintended pregnancies, maternal illness, and the number of babies being born at low birth weights. He argues that every $1 invested in contraceptive services saves Medicaid $3.74. The mandate “must include coverage for the full range of contraceptive drugs and devices, related services such as insertion and removal of devices, and counseling and patient education,” Mr. Sonfield said in a statement.

Report: Federal Funds Aid Abortions

Six organizations that support the right of women to have abortions got hundreds of millions in federal dollars between 2002 and 2009, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. The funding was primarily for services in family planning, reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS. In total, the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Agency for International Development distributed more than $500 million to Advocates for Youth, the Guttmacher Institute, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Population Council, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. With additional federal grants channeled through states, the six groups reported spending about $967 million in federal funds over the 8 years. The report was requested by Republicans in Congress. “By funding Planned Parenthood and their allies, we are unwittingly supporting an abortion organization and everything they do,” Ken Blackwell, of the antiabortion Family Research Council, said in a statement.

Bill Pushes Risk Warnings

Proposed legislation aims to increase information on pregnancy-risk information. The “Birth Defects Prevention, Risk Reduction, and Awareness Act” (H.R. 5462/S. 3479) has bipartisan support and endorsements from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the March of Dimes. The bill calls for a national media campaign to make physicians and patients aware of the information services. “Unfortunately, research shows that up to half of pregnant women are not counseled by their health care providers about the potential risks of medications they may be taking, and programs to provide this information have been closing due to state and local budget cuts,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D.-Conn.), one of the bill's sponsors, said in a statement.

ART Called Heavily Regulated

When a California woman gave birth to octuplets last year, some people cried out for a clampdown on assisted reproductive medicine in the United States. But the American Society for Reproductive Medicine reports that assisted reproductive technology (ART) is already one of the most highly regulated practices in all of medicine. For example, ART falls under the purview of three federal agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These agencies are responsible for collecting data on ART, regulating drugs and devices and tests of eggs and sperm, and ensuring the quality of laboratories. Self-regulation includes a reproductive-laboratory accreditation program and ethics and practice guidelines. However, the report concedes that oversight could be improved if health plans would agree to cover ART services. Then health plans could require that physicians comply with the ethics and practice guidelines as a condition of payment.

Doctors Retract 'Nick' Policy

The American Academy of Pediatrics, under fire for its position on female genital cutting, has withdrawn the statement and reiterated its “strong opposition” to the practice. In April, the journal Pediatrics published an AAP statement suggesting that physicians in certain immigrant communities might substitute a pinprick of the clitoral skin for ritual genital cutting in order to satisfy cultural requirements. The statement warned that parents still might send their daughters out of the country to get the full procedure or have it done in the United States by someone not medically trained. But the AAP said in its new statement that it does not endorse the practice of offering a “clitoral nick,” which is forbidden by federal law. Said AAP President Judith Palfrey, “We retracted that policy because it is important that the world health community understands the AAP is totally opposed to all forms of female genital cutting, both here in the U.S. and anywhere else in the world.”

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