Contraception mandate begins, but the debate is far from over

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A major aspect of the Affordable Care Act went into effect today. Woman is now guaranteed free coverage of a variety of health care options without having to pay a co-pay.

The move is not without controversy, especially from religious groups who oppose a mandate requiring that birth control be provided free of charge.

It is a battle that they have largely won.

The start of increased access to birth control is the new reality in America, but that didn't stop these abortion rights activists from holding a celebratory "protest" to mark the occasion.

"Women's rights it should not be an issue any more and this needs to be put to rest," said Abby Guskind, who was on hand for the protest.

Despite winning a battle that ushers in a new era in women's health care, pro-choice protestors are worried about the controversy that surrounded this aspect of the Obama Administration's sweeping health care reform.

Chris Freund of the conservative Family Foundation believes they should be.

"Faith based businesses and non profits are being forced to violate their conscience," argued Freund.

Freund represents religious groups and average citizens who are opposed to contraception. He claims no one is working to outlaw birth control. Instead they believe the government shouldn't be forcing people to provide it to others for free.

"Contraception is readily available is inexpensive," he said. "I don't think there was anything in the way of access before."

That may be the key point of contention. It is not access that is up for debate, but the level of that access.  The mandate's defenders claim the policy helps far more people than it offends.

"It's not just important to women, it's important to their families, it's important to their children," said Pamela Kalinowski of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. "This is an issue that reaches across different walks of life."

Free birth control is only one plank of this mandate. It also forces insurance companies to provide free screenings for STD's as well as domestic violence and family planning counseling.

This controversy could ultimately be settled in a courtroom. There are currently two dozen lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the mandate.

We have more on the mandate debate on our political blog Decision Virginia.

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