Ohio Republicans Want to Make It Harder for Women to Get Long-Term Birth Control



Ohio Republicans are backing a bill aimed at restricting abortion access, as they do. One of the interesting/atrocious things about this one is that it would—in the service of reducing abortions—make it harder for women to get the most long-acting form of birth control short of sterilization, the intrauterine device (IUD).

The first hearing for House Bill 351, sponsored by Cincinnati Republican Rep. John Becker, was held yesterday. At the hearing, Becker said insurance plans should be barred from covering IUDs because preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg—which IUDs could theoretically do, though they primarily work by preventing sperm from getting to that egg in the first place—could be considered abortion.

"This is just a personal view. I'm not a medical doctor," he added. 

Sound policy reasoning there, Rep! Becker also acknowledged the wording of the bill could be interpreted to ban coverage of birth control pills, too, but he hadn't intended it that way. He's not a medical doctor, remember, just someone trying to play one with the weight of the state behind him.

Under H.B. 351, all insurance plans in Ohio would be barred from offering abortion coverage. This isn't a ban on "taxpayer funded abortions" we're talking about—it's an explicit restriction on the kinds of legal services that private insurance companies (and by extension, employers who offer health plans) can offer. Conservatives decry this sort of thing vociferously when it's Obama making every insurance company and employer cover certain services. 

In addition to the abortion coverage ban, H.B. 351 would prohibit public employee insurance plans and Medicaid from covering IUDs, one of the safest, most effective, most cost-effective, and longest-lasting form of contraception. 

There are two types of IUDs, a copper device and a plastic device that releases hormones of the variety found in birth control pills. The copper IUD is one of the only forms of birth control—short of, say, condoms and pulling out—that doesn't involve synthetic hormones. The upfront cost runs between $500 and $900, which can be prohibitive for women without insurance coverage. In the long run, however, IUDs can end up costing less than other forms of birth control (not to mention abortion or pregnancy) because they're effective for up to 12 years. 

But as the minutiae of women's contraceptive decisions increasingly becomes fair legislative game on both sides, expect to see more fights over whether IUDs magically become abortion because some people think they are. In Saline County, Kansas, the county commission is currently at odds over IUDs. Commissioner John Price said funds intended for county health services to buy IUDs were "murder" and he wouldn't stand for it. 

Kansas is one of 10 states—along with Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah—that prohibit all insurance plans for state residents from covering abortion. Twenty-five states currently have laws prohibiting abortion coverage for plans on the state health exchanges.