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Maine Women Give Mixed Response to Federal Birth Control Policy
08/01/2011   Reported By: Josie Huang
Lurlene Dame of South Portland

On Monday The Obama administration announced that health insurers must cover certain women's reproductive health services without charging co-pays as part of the affordable care act passed last year. Those preventive services includes check-ups, breast-feeding training and supplies, HIV/AIDS screening, and most controversially -- birth control.

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Maine Women Give Mixed Response to Federal Birth C Listen

Felicia Fox

The inclusion of birth control in the guidelines sparked a range of reactions in Maine, but everybody could agree that the change would cut out a major monthly expense for many women.

"Birth control can get really expensive," said Felicia Fox of Standish. "And I think there are obviously women getting pregnant a lot younger and half of it might be because they're not being safe, and half of of it could be that they can't afford it."

Fox makes it a priority to buy birth control, even though she's in an entry-level job at a publishing company, and has to worry about expenses such as rent, and gas. She used to pay $40 a month for a brand-name oral contraceptive before switching to a cheaper generic that costs her half as much.

"But, still, if you think about $20 a month," Fox said. "I mean I'm living at home for the next month to save money. That extra $20 it could be groceries -- I don't know -- it's tough right now."

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the Obama administration had accepted the recommendations of a medical panel convened by the Institute of Medicine that women receive free coverage for preventive services.

"So that no woman in America has to choose between paying the grocery bill and paying the co-pay for preventive care that could save her life," Sebelius said.

Sebelius says the new guidelines "reflect common sense."

"Since birth control is the most common drug prescribed to women ages 18 to 44, insurance plans should cover it," Sebelius said. "Not doing it would be like not covering flu shots or any of the other basic preventive services that millions of Americans count on every day."

Estimates show that roughly half of pregnancies in Maine are unplanned. Kate Brogan of the Family Planning Association of Maine, expects that over time the rates of unintended pregnancies will drop.

"All of the health care experts will tell you when women have the opportunity to space their pregnancies, it's better for women's health, it's better for babies' health and it will reduce the rate of abortion. it'll be just good news all around."

Maine's public health director Dr. Sheila Pinette is out for the week, according to her office, and unavailable to comment on the new federal policy's impact in Maine.

But others are speaking out against it. Penny Morell of the Maine chapter of the Concerned Women of America says she is worried that the new federal policy will encourage pre-marital sex. She believes abstinence should be promoted.

"Our young ladies are being abused by the liberal biases out there and the propaganda that's sold to them them that they can have free sex and the government's going to take care of it. It's unhealthy for them both physically and mentally. Coming from the government, it's horrific."

Karen McDonald is a 55-year-old respiratory therapist from Wells, who's also Catholic and pro-life. She's particularly concerned that coverage with no copays applies to morning- after pills such as Plan B. Macdonald says she's opposed to such treatments, even in the case of rape and incest.

"Those are very troubling scenarios, certainly, but I do value life over anything," McDonald said.

Lurlene DameThe new federal coverage rules do not however apply to RU-486, which chemically induces an abortion.

Twenty-year-old Lurlene Dame says she's incredibly happy to have had one-year-old son Killian. But in hindsight, she says she should have been on birth control.

"I think it was relatively cheap but I just didn't have any money," Dame said.

Dame is now raising Killian on her own and staying with friends in South Portland. Dame says she wishes she had waited to have a child.

"Like four or five more years just so I could have been prepared so I would have everthing I need to take him," Dame said. "Because we bounce around -- we sleep at different people's houses and it's not beneficial for him at all. I think he would have a better life if I was more stable and had a job prior to getting pregnant."

The new federal guidelines took effect Monday and require that all insurers cover women's preventive services in new plans starting in August 2012.


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