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Survey Shows Public Support for Contraceptive Coverage; NYT Examines EC Research

Survey Shows Public Support for Contraceptive Coverage; NYT Examines EC Research

December 4, 2012 — Most U.S. residents believe that businesses and religious not-for-profits should be required to offer contraceptive coverage to their employees, even if they oppose birth control on religious grounds, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research, USA Today reports.

The LifeWay survey of 1,191 adults found that 63% said businesses should be required to provide no-cost contraceptive coverage to employees, as is required under the federal contraceptive coverage rules being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). Meanwhile, 56% of respondents said that not-for-profits should provide contraceptive coverage and 53% say that religiously affiliated schools, hospitals and charities should provide the coverage. According to the survey, women are more likely than men to "strongly agree" that contraceptive coverage should be offered by all three types of businesses.

Dozens of Catholic dioceses, religiously affiliated universities and business owners have filed lawsuits to block the contraceptive coverage requirement, arguing that it violates their religious freedom and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Grossman, USA Today, 12/3). HHS has given religious not-for-profits, such as colleges and hospitals, a one-year delay period to come into compliance, and religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, are exempt altogether (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/20).

Ed Stetzer -- president of LifeWay, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention -- said, "The American public appears unaware or unconcerned that some religious organizations and family businesses indicate fear of losing the freedom to practice their faith under the new healthcare regulations" (Burke, Religion News Service/Huffington Post, 12/3).

New York Times Examines Research on Teens' Use of Emergency Contraception

In related news, the New York Times' "Well" on Monday examined some of the research related to the American Academy of Pediatrics' recent recommendation that physicians discuss emergency contraception with their patients and prescribe the drug in advance. According to "Well," the policy revision was prompted in part by new research showing that young women given advanced prescriptions for EC were more likely to use the drug in a timely manner after unprotected sex.

"Well" notes that a recent study of college students found that only 16% knew EC was available at college health clinics. In addition, one 2006 study found that even when young women have EC on hand, many did not take the medication.

No studies have found significantly lower pregnancy rates among adolescent girls who received advanced EC prescriptions. However, the studies might be too small to detect a statistically significant reduction, according to Catherine Haggerty, an associate professor of reproductive epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Research shows that having an EC prescription does not lead to more risky sexual behavior among young women, although the studies mostly looked at women ages 18 and older.

"Good information, in fact, has a protective effect," according to Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "What we've learned from good research is that talking about these issues helps young people have a plan, understand it, and know what they would do," she added (Caryn Rabin, "Well," New York Times, 12/3).