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Birth Control Health Center

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Opinion: Women Earn Right to Contraceptive Coverage


That kind of heated rhetoric tells Judith DeSarno, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, that the fabric of Roe v. Wade may be coming undone. For 21 years, that U.S. Supreme Court decision has given a woman the option of ending her pregnancy.

Given that in the next few years, two or three justices may step down, probably to be replaced by jurists at least as conservative, DeSarno fears many of Roe's protections will be nibbled away. "Pre-Roe, there were two states where it was legal to get an abortion. We would then go back to fighting this fight in 50 states," DeSarno tells WebMD.

Ultimately, DeSarno says the public wouldn't stand for overturning abortion rights, but the battle could be bloody.

Among the other reproductive rights issues percolating on the Hill include a move to deny female federal employees contraceptives in their health plans, even though such coverage is already in place. Further, conservative lawmakers want to ban emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pills," from school health clinics.

The battle over RU-486, the French abortion pill approved last September by the Food and Drug Administration, could be fought again over the issue of whether it's safe for women. That in spite of the fact that the FDA has already put numerous safeguards in place for the controversial drug, which is sold under the name Mifeprex.

Finally, a bit of good news -- the CDC has announced that the teen pregnancy rate is the lowest it's been since 1997. Perhaps the massive education efforts about changing risky behaviors are paying off. Let's hope so.

With all the dissension over these issues, less emotion and more insight is desperately needed.

Jeff Levine is the Washington bureau chief for WebMD. He has covered health policy in Washington since 1989. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of WebMD.

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