Ed. Note: The following piece, written by Alliance Defending Freedom client Dr. Cami Jo Tice-Harouff, originally appeared at The Dallas Morning News.
Women’s health care is in the news quite a lot these days, but one story that hasn’t been in the news nearly enough is how a new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rule cuts women off from insurance coverage for certain family planning methods.
The rule says that insurance companies need not cover fertility awareness-based family planning methods, though these companies are required to cover contraceptives and abortifacient drugs and devices.
In other words, the federal government — with President Joe Biden’s sign-off — is punishing women for wanting to listen to and understand their bodies.
I work as a nurse practitioner, and many of my clients are women seeking fertility awareness-based family planning and health care. They choose these methods for many reasons.
While some use these methods because of their religious convictions, others are drawn to these methods because they want to learn to work with their bodies’ natural cycles. Fertility awareness-based methods can be very helpful in detecting underlying issues like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome, enabling women to seek treatment rather than merely masking symptoms via contraceptives.
Those methods, however, are under fire from the federal government, for no reason beyond the preferences of government officials.
In May, I filed a lawsuit in federal district court against this rule, and, most recently, the court agreed to stop the rule from being enforced temporarily while my lawsuit proceeds.
This is important because the rule goes into effect Dec. 31. If the court had not issued an injunction to stop the rule from being enforced while my case proceeds, come Jan. 1, I would not have been able to provide my patients with the care they want and need unless they are able to pay out of pocket.
This rule is nothing more than a government abuse of power. As backroom bureaucrats write senseless rules, the patients I serve will go without care — and the poorer my patients are, the harder this rule hits.
I participate in a unique system that allows me to help make sure the neediest women have access to health care that helps them listen to and care for their bodies naturally.
We bill insurance providers, and then we donate the proceeds to a nonprofit clinic that provides health care to whoever needs it — whether they can pay or not.
This works because the Affordable Care Act prevents insurance plans from billing women for “preventive care and screenings.”
Instead, it requires insurance companies to cover this preventive care. Insurance companies reimburse for it at a rate of $300 to $450 per session, and new patients receive instruction about six times in their first five months.
In 2016, HHS added fertility awareness-based family planning methods to this category, ensuring that all women — including those who value learning from and listening to their bodies’ natural rhythms — have access to preventive care.
And, as a result, we were able to bill insurance companies for this, which allowed patients who can’t afford it to access these services and enabled us to donate more to the needy.
But in December 2021, HHS removed these fertility awareness-based family planning methods from the list of methods that insurance had to cover.
It did this covertly, without using the notice-and-comment process or providing any rationale, both of which are required by the Administrative Procedure Act.
In other words, HHS decided that it doesn’t approve of women using natural, fertility awareness-based methods to understand their own bodies and decide when to grow their families, so it illegally excluded those methods.
I filed suit to ask the court to allow me to continue serving women and their families with the health care they need, and to stop the federal government from penalizing women who are interested in natural, fertility awareness-based family planning methods.
By removing those methods from being eligible for insurance reimbursements, the administration is effectively keeping health care practitioners from being able to care for the neediest women in our community.