Nearly seven in 10 Americans support the mandated coverage of birth control under health plans, a new survey reports, with those opposing the mandate typically being older American men without children.

The survey comes amid a growing controversy in Washington and in the Supreme Court, as the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate makes it illegal for health insurers and employers offering health insurance to their employees to deny women access to birth control. As researchers from the University of Michigan Health System found in their study, public opinion largely echoes the policy, despite a vocal minority that believes birth control is a woman’s personal responsibility.

"There is an ongoing national debate about contraceptive coverage requirements in private health plans in the U.S.," said lead author and OB/GYN Dr. Michelle Moniz, of the University’s Medical School, in a statement. Some 69 percent of respondents, mostly women, blacks, Hispanics, parents with children under the age of 18 at home, and adults with private or public insurance, said the policy was the right move.

Other procedures that received overwhelming support — despite carrying significantly less political weight — included mammograms and colonoscopies (85 percent support), recommended vaccinations (84 percent), screening tests for diabetes and high cholesterol (82 percent), mental health care (77 percent), and dental care (75 percent). Roughly 10 percent of people supported all procedures except birth control coverage. These subjects tended to be men, most over the age of 60, and people living in childless households.

This tendency reflects the impact of direct involvement when it comes to birth control. Despite dental care and mental health care receiving more than three-quarters support, reproductive health care for women may have yet to fully resonate as a health concern. “In other words,” Moniz explained, “support is higher among individuals who may be more likely to directly benefit from affordable birth control.”

What the minority may not understand is that unplanned pregnancies continue to be a public health concern, and one that can only continue to drop as the access to education and contraception increases. In 2012, there were 29.4 births for every 1,000 adolescent females between the ages of 15 and 19. That rate has been falling almost continuously since 1991, when the rate was 61.8 per 1,000 adolescent females. "Understanding public views on this issue is vitally important to medical and public health efforts to reduce unplanned pregnancy in the U.S.,” Moniz commented.

The common misconception is that women are buying birth control so they can have more sex, which shouldn’t be any of the American taxpayers’ concern. But numerous studies have debunked this fear. Birth control is primarily used to improve overall health — so that women can have more regular periods and avoid unwanted pregnancy. Luckily, many Americans are already onboard with this idea.

"This isn't only a women's health issue. It's an issue that is also important to families and communities," Moniz concluded. "Our findings suggest that a policy requiring all health insurance plans to cover birth control medications is consistent with the beliefs of the majority of Americans."

 

Source: Moniz M, Davis M, Chang T. Attitudes About Mandated Coverage of Birth Control Medication and Other Health Benefits in a US National Sample. JAMA. 2014.