Since November, 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), contracted through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has hosted three expert committee meetings in Washington, D.C., to discuss and make decisions regarding the Mikulski Amendment mandate on specific womens preventive services to be included with no cost-sharing in Obamacare. The final meeting was this past Wednesday, March 9th.

Meeting attendees have included the committee a largely pro-abortion group who for the most part actively work in the field of reproductive health, a senior staffer from U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulskis (D-MD) office, HHS representatives, invited panelists, and other interested groups. Attendance was approximately 50-75 people, depending on the session.

Invited presenters included the following pro-abortion groups and/or representatives: the Guttmacher Institute; John Santelli, the National Womens Law Center, National Womens Health Network, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Sara Rosenbaum, who recently represented the pro-abortion side in the committee hearings on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and the Protect Life Act. No pro-life advocates were invited to present at any workshop, despite asking for formal presentation time. By far the topic that received the greatest amount of attention was contraception coverage; inclusion of contraception for no co-pay was suggested by most invited speakers.

Each meeting allowed opportunity for public comment. Family Research Council, which I had the privilege of representing, joined with other pro-life, pro-family groups at each of the three sessions to request that embryocidal contraceptives, including Plan B which can cause an abortion prior to implantation, and the more recently approved drug, ella, which can cause an abortion after implantation, not be included in the recommended list for no co-pay. We pled that the conscience rights of insurance issuers, participants and providers be respected in matters related to life. For a more in-depth look at FRC comments, see here.

The committee recommendation process will be complete, with recommendations provided to HHS, at the latest by August, 2011.