WASHINGTON, D.C., August 1, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Following recommendations by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Obama administration announced this morning that insurance plans will be required to cover contraceptives, which include abortion-inducing drugs such as Plan B and Ella, as well as elective sterilizations.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a news release included the drugs as part of an essential “preventive care” package. “Historic new guidelines that will ensure women receive preventive health services at no additional cost were announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” she said.

The HHS release notes that “contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” are to be covered, while CNN notes that the preventive mandate will include sterilizations.

The mandate comes after a massive, months-long push by abortion giant Planned Parenthood to establish free birth control for American women, a campaign strongly opposed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” said USCCB pro-life chair Cardinal Daniel DiNardo last month.

The HHS also invited comment on a possible amendment to the regulation that allows religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.

But that announcement failed to allay conservatives’ fears: Anna Franzonello, staff counsel with Americans United for Life, told Politico that such an amendment would likely fall short.

“The Obama administration has repeatedly demonstrated that its idea of conscience is narrow and protections are shallow or meaningless,” she said.

Internal disagreements about the coverage mandate delayed the announcement by nearly a week, according to Politico.

Arland Nichols, National Director of Human Life International (HLI) America, said the decision was “very disappointing” as it was essentially ideological.

“It amounts to a federal decree that pregnancy is a disease and that children are an enemy of the health and wellbeing of women,” said Nichols in an email to LifeSiteNews.com.

The IOM report drawn upon by HHS listed the medical benefit of birth control as “the ability to plan one’s family and attain optimal birth spacing,” and secondarily, as treatment for conditions including acne and menstrual abnormalities.

The same report even suggested that elective abortion could also have been considered a mandatory “preventive service” had it not been for federal law: the authors note that abortion had to be ruled out “despite the health and well-being benefits to some women.”

Nichols also pointed out the “host of side-effects” associated with use of contraceptives such as the birth control pill. The drug in hormonal birth control pills has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, or a “definite” cause of cancer, by the World Health Organization.