Family Planning Lost Traction this Week

Contraception and family planning are among the most significant public health interventions of all time- and among the top of the list when it comes to return on investment.

Family planning and contraception are key to reducing teen pregnancies and inter-generational poverty.  It’s no secret that poverty is a key driver for a host of poor health outcomes.  Family planning is also a high return on investment intervention for improving preconception health because it allows women to make more deliberate decisions about the spacing of babies- which improves the health status of mom and baby.  Family planning is also good for businesses, because it allows employees to plan their families in a way that improves their work-life balance, improving attendance and retention.

The Affordable Care Act initially required that health insurance plans cover no-cost contraception services, a big win for public health. A couple of years ago the US Supreme Court ruled that family owned and other closely held companies can opt out of these ACA’s provisions.  The owners of the Hobby Lobby had objected on the grounds of religious freedom.

This week things slipped further, when Attorney General Sessions expanded the religious exemption for employers who object to providing insurance coverage for birth control because of their religious or moral beliefs.  His “religious liberty directive" instructs federal agencies to do as much as possible to accommodate those who claim their religious freedoms are being violated, effectively lifting a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics that affect various actions are sincerely held.

Here’s the Attorney General’s guidance and his implementing memo