WASHINGTON, D.C., July 20, 2011 ( – The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report backing Planned Parenthood’s push for free birth control that sparked a controversy with its release this week, includes a strong hint that an abortion mandate would also have been favorably weighed by the organization, had federal law not stood in the way.

The stated objective of the new IOM report, commissioned by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS), was to review “what preventive services are necessary for women’s health and well-being and should be considered in the development of comprehensive guidelines for preventive services for women” under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the new national health care law. The Institute is a non-profit independent organization tasked with advising government leaders on medical issues.

While surgical abortion coverage could not be mandated given federal law, IOM experts indicated they favored the procedure as a potential “essential preventive service.”

“Despite the health and well-being benefits to some women, abortion services were considered to be outside of the project’s scope, given the restrictions contained in the ACA,” wrote the authors.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the statement revealed the political motives behind the IOM paper.

“Most Americans surely see that abortion is not healthy or therapeutic for unborn children, and has physical and mental health risks for women which can be extremely serious,” said DiNardo in a statement Tuesday. “I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children.”

The cardinal also sharply criticized the report’s acceptance of the principle that pregnancy is a medical malady in need of treatment, an argument maintained by Planned Parenthood, which has campaigned vigorously for the contraception coverage mandate. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director for medical services, on Tuesday justified the coverage mandate to NPR as necessary to stem the “epidemic” of “unintended pregnancies.”

The IOM report touts the medical benefits of birth control drugs as “the ability to plan one’s family and attain optimal birth spacing,” and secondarily, as treatment for conditions including menstrual abnormalities, “acne or hirsutism,” and “pelvic pain.”

The report also notes that hormonal birth control pills reduce risk of endometrial cancer, while declining to mention the drug’s established identity as a cause of breast cancer.

Classified by the World Health Organization as a Group One Carcinogen – or a “definite” cause of cancer – medical textbooks widely acknowledge an approximate 30 percent increased risk of breast cancer associated with pill use, a risk studies have found rises drastically in young women who have not borne children.

Other side effects of the pill, including stroke, blood clots, heart attack, and death, were downplayed as “minimal” and, to illustrate the point, the authors noted that the mortality rate associated with birth control use is lower than that of giving birth.

The Obama administration appeared to welcome the report, although a conclusion on the report’s recommendations will only follow further scrutiny.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the report “historic” and “based on science and existing literature.”