IUDs are Like Abortion. Wait. What?

Writer Katie McDonough’s recent article at Salon.com discusses the ludicrous logic behind proposed legislation in Ohio to ban insurers—both public and private—from covering all abortion procedures in all circumstances, including in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment—with the narrow exception of ectopic pregnancies. An increasingly popular strategy among anti-choice proponents, restricting a woman’s right to use her insurance to help cover the cost of an abortion disproportionately affects low-income women.

While a similar law in Michigan went into effect this spring, Ohio’s measure seeks to go even further. The broad language in House Bill 351 would prevent insurance policies from covering any "abortion services," including drugs and devices "used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum." This would include all IUDs, and could be interpreted to include all forms of birth control.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Becker, along with many anti-choice groups, believes that IUDs—and all methods that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus—are equivalent to abortion.  Truthfully, as Amanda Marcotte points out in Slate, “IUDs work by preventing sperm from reaching the egg. Mirena also stifles ovulation. They may have a secondary effect of preventing implantation, but, as with the pill, the evidence shows that non-contraception users ‘kill’ a lot more fertilized eggs by callously menstruating them out.” 

Rep. Becker does acknowledge that he is not a doctor and that this is his personal opinion. To contrast this perspective, McDonough talks to an actual medical doctor, Dr. Ann Davis, who explains that IUDs, when used on a long-term basis, prevent fertilization from happening at all. She also offers this broader perspective on the difference between pregnancy and fertilization: 

An important distinction here is that fertilization is not the same thing as pregnancy for the very, very simple reason that these things take time. There are a lot of steps between fertilization and implantation being successful. For the average woman who is not on any kind of birth control, that process of fertilization is occurring over and over and over again and those women are not getting pregnant over and over and over again because many of those fertilizations never, ever implant.

If the Ohio ban is successful, it will violate a rule in the Affordable Care Act that requires most insurance plans to cover the full range of contraceptives at no cost.