August 3, 2011 -- Paying for prescription birth control will soon be a thing of the past.
Starting in August 2012, women will also be able to get emergency contraceptives like the morning-after pill; mammograms; pap smears; and other preventative services free of charge, according to new guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The announcement was met with some controversy with conservative and religious groups questioning aspects of the new rules, such as including the morning-after pill.
"Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible," said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement.
Health care providers affiliated with religious institutions are not required to adopt the new guidelines.
The government insists that the new rules are meant to benefit women's health.
"These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood supports the decision and released a statement saying, "Today's recommendation brings us a step closer to ensuring that all newly insured women under the health care reform law will have access to prescription birth control without out-of-pocket expenses."
The guidelines will require private insurance companies to cover these services without charging co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles and will take effect next August, so ladies, be on the lookout.