Faith leaders support including contraception in health reform

November 24, 2010

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Religious leaders on both sides of the abortion
debate called on Congress to include free birth control as a component
in health-care reform.

Responding to an Institute of Medicine
panel considering whether contraception should be classified in
health-reform legislation as a preventive service that insurance
companies must cover without a co-payment, the religious leaders
endorsed the idea as a common-ground approach to reducing abortion.

"Inclusion of contraception in preventive services guidelines will be a
critical victory for common ground on abortion, demonstrating that those
who disagree on the legality of abortion can agree that we ought to
prevent unintended pregnancies," said David Gushee, a Mercer University
professor and co-founder of the New Evangelical Partnership for the
Common Good.

Women's health advocates say requiring insurance companies to cover
contraceptives without a co-payment would prevent nearly 2 million
pregnancies and 810,000 abortions each year. The United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes the idea on religious grounds.

Gushee, who writes a regular column
for Associated Baptist Press, said sexual responsibility includes both
abstinence and careful use of contraception. Removing financial
obstacles to obtaining birth control, he said, "can enable women and men
to exercise greater moral responsibility with their sexuality."

"Contraception is a crucial preventive service that will tackle one of
the primary root causes of abortions, a tragic decision that the vast
majority of women strongly and rightly wish to avoid," Gushee said.
"Covering contraceptive services reflects the realities of our world and
will do much to reduce the disastrously high number of abortions in

Supporters of the proposal say millions of women who otherwise would
purchase contraceptives every month are foregoing the expense due to the

Derrick Harkins, senior pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in
Washington, said that despite "significantly differing opinions" about
abortion, a "very clear point of common ground" exists on prevention of
unintended pregnancies.

"Ensuring that low-income women, along with all other women, have access
to affordable contraception is a crucial, common-sense way to prevent
unintended pregnancies, which often end in abortion," Harkins said. "I
believe that persons on both sides of this difficult issue would agree
that including contraception as a preventive service that insurance
companies must cover without a co-payment is a viable step in promoting
women's health, and reducing the number of abortions."

Faith leaders joining Gushee and Harkins in endorsing the measure
included Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in central
Florida; Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform
Judaism; and author and activist Brian McLaren.