New federal laws requiring birth control in health insurance plans has at least one doctor excited about curbing an already decreasing trend of unwanted pregnancies around Chattanooga.
"It's absolutely an excellent policy," said Dr. Susanna Carter, a physician at University Health Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chattanooga. "As a female patient advocate and caregiver, I'm very pleased with it."
The stipulation is included within a wide new swath of coverage for women's preventive care. President Barack Obama announced earlier this month that health insurance plans must cover federally approved birth control without copays and other fees. Some sterilization procedures also must be covered.
The requirements, partly delineated by the Food and Drug Administration, take effect on New Year's Day in 2013.
According to news reports, the Obama administration followed the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences. The academy said nearly half of all pregnancies in America were unintended, and about 40 percent of those ended in abortions.
It's unclear how the new requirements will affect teenagers across the nation. In some states, parents must be notified if girls below 18 visit a doctor for birth control. Tennessee and Georgia allow minors to obtain birth control without parental permission.
Carter, the local physician, outlined her philosophy: She prescribes birth control without hesitation if the teen is healthy and wants it, even if a parent isn't present.
"I don't know if that's ever happened -- usually the mother is with her," she said. "There still needs to be more done to reach out to teenagers, but that opens a political can of worms in the South."
On its own, Hamilton County has seen a steep drop in teen birth rates, particularly among black girls in their middle teenage years. Pregnancy rates have fallen by nearly half since 2008, state records show.
Among all girls ages 15 to 19, Tennessee's birth rate has fallen by a quarter since 1991 and Georgia's has dropped 32 percent, newspaper archives show.
Still, the South lags behind the nation. Tennessee and Georgia ranked among the 15 highest teen birthrates in America in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Conceding to social conservatives, the new provision includes an exception for religious institutions to choose against offering birth control coverage.
"It's a step in the right direction, but it's not enough," Jeanne Monahan, policy expert for the Family Research Council, told The Associated Press.