Opponents of the recent contraceptive coverage announcement by the Department of Health & Human Services are trying to twist this major advance on contraception into a fight about abortion. In the Washington Post, Michael Gerson states that the rule requires Catholic-affiliated organizations to provide insurance coverage for “abortifacients.” CNN’s Belief Blog claims the new rule “forces employers to cover contraception and abortion.” While both advance several faulty arguments, it’s time to put to rest the claim about abortion. The rule is directly and explicitly limited to FDA-approved contraception.
Opponents of contraception repeatedly try to switch the debate to abortion, claiming that contraceptives are abortifacients despite medical and scientific judgment to the contrary. One prime example is Plan B, the commercially marketed emergency contraceptive, used as morning-after birth control, not an abortifacient. It’s instructive that even the Catholic Health Care Association, whose four-part special report in the January-February 2010 edition of Catholic Health Progress addressed the ethics of providing emergency contraception to rape survivors in hospital emergency rooms, subtitled one of the articles (pdf) plainly: “Science shows [Plan B] is not an abortifacient.”
Likewise, the FDA has approved other formulations, most recently Ella, as emergency contraception because they cannot disrupt an established pregnancy. The Catholic hierarchy, which consistently opposes all contraception, has opposed the FDA new rule on contraceptive coverage for all women, with or without a religious exemption, but let’s not muddy the water with erroneous claims that the FDA decision required abortion coverage.