Reps pledge to fight changes
Gathering held in response to modifications to contraceptive coverage
Pennsylvania legislators gathered within Philadelphia City Hall Nov. 1 to pledge a fight for women’s rights on the state level after the Trump administration narrowed the breadth of contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act.
In early October, the new rules enacted by the administration widened the range that employers and insurers can limit health coverage based on religious or moral beliefs, avoiding the ACA’s requirement to offer birth control pills and other contraceptives.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed a lawsuit against the federal government, saying Oct. 11 at a Planned Parenthood health center in Philadelphia that the Trump administration “broke the law and undermined the health and economic independence of American women.
State Rep. Leanne Krueger- Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore, said she and other members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives were drafting a bill thatwould preserve contraceptive coverage in the commonwealth.
“Contraception is health care, and access to health care is a fundamental human right that is inextricably tied to economic mobility and freedom,” KruegerBraneky said. “By making basic preventive care like the pill a costly luxury, the Trump administration is sidelining girls and women – whether they are students, hourly wage workers, young professionals, or already moms.”
The legislation proposed by Krueger-Braneky, Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-172 of Philadelphia, and Rep. Tina Davis, D-141 of Bristol, would require that all state-regulated and self-funded insurance plans in Pennsylvania cover contraceptives and vasectomies.
“Government has no business limiting the health care options available to women,” Davis said. ““This bill not only protects our right to make our own choices about our bodies, but it sends a message to the federal government that Pennsylvania women will not be hampered by its bad policies.”
The proposed legislation would also eliminate most co-payments for birth control and vasectomies, enable women to receive 12 months of birth control at one time and lift pre-authorizations on intrauterine devices.
“The rollback of the birth control mandate is a rollback of women’s rights and civil rights,” KruegerBraneky said. “I urge my colleagues in the Pennsylvania House to stand up for women, girls and working families and protect affordable access to health care, including contraception.”
Currently 28 states – including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Ohio – require insurers that cover prescription drugs to also provide coverage of FDAapproved prescription contraceptive drugs.
In terms of cost, Nevada, for example, which didn’t have a specific line item in its budget for family planning, allocated $ 500,000 for 2018 and 2019 due to the threat to federal funding streams. But, is that enough? Certainly the AG lawsuit against the federal government seems to be the best option to protect women’s rights, but the Democratic House members who gathered at City Hall wanted to stress that Pennsylvania should be among the 28 other states that already have protections in place.
“The preventive benefit under President Barack Obama’s administration saved women $1.4 billion on birth control the first year it went into effect and contributed to an all-time low in unintended pregnancy,” Boyle said. “We must raise our voice and continue the fight to make it possible for all of us to achieve the maximum level of health and wellbeing.”
In 2010, 53 percent of all pregnancies in Pennsylvania were unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies and advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States.
Federal and state governments spent $726.8 million on unintended pregnancies in 2010 – $478.6 million paid by the federal government and $248.2 million paid by the state. The total public costs was about $298 per woman aged 15- 44.
According to the report, averting unintended pregnancies and other negative reproductive health outcomes could have helped save the federal and state governments $434.4 million in 2010.
“Women have been in a constant battle with government on a number of issues – fighting for their communities, for better education, to close the pay gap,” Boyle said. “Yet, women are still combating the social and economic forces that try to deprive them of their reproductive autonomy.
“Why are women still fighting to have control over their own bodies?”
State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, center, speaks in the Mayor’s Reception Room in Philadelphia City Hall to announce a plan by Democratic members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to preserve coverage for women seeking contraception benefits through their company’s health care plan.