The Obama administration is expected to propose a birth-control compromise today for Catholic-run institutions that don’t want to pay for their employees to avoid pregnancy. New federal rules guarantee free contraception coverage, but a narrow exception already exists for Catholic churches that don’t believe in not having babies. The compromise would still allow women to access contraception but would not make objecting employers pay for it directly.
Update: Here’s a fact sheet with details about the compromise. The upshot: Religious employers aren’t required to pay for birth control, but if they don’t cover it, the woman’s insurance company has to shoulder the whole cost.
Even with the compromise, the administration’s contraception policy ranks pretty high on the list of green initiatives it’s undertaken. It’s not usually labelled as an environmental policy, but babies use a lot of stuff! And then they grow up and use even more.
That said, hormone-based birth control may be less eco-friendly than plain old condoms (even allowing for the fact that you never see ortho-tricyclen strewn on the ground in parks). At least, that’s where Slate came down on the issue a couple years back. Here’s the thinking:
Given that the condoms represent only about 0.001 percent of the 152 million tons of trash American households produce annually—and that we still need a lot of research into the precise effects that pharmaceuticals are having on our water supply—condoms seem to be the greener choice. This is especially true when you factor in all the packaging that typically comes with American pharmaceuticals—the plastic dispensers, the printed instruction leaflets, and so on.
Slate concluded that the greenest birth control choice is probably a copper IUD — a tiny piece of metal that keeps a woman baby-free for years. Ultimately, though, using any contraception will lead to less resource consumption than using no contraception at all.