At one point, unmarried women couldn’t get it. Still today, pharmacists can refuse to fill a woman’s prescription. And earlier this year, Republicans in Congress tried to defund Planned Parenthood, which helps women across America.
This is nothing new. Women’s reproductive freedom and ability to control their own destiny has always been under attack. Every gain is crucial because opponents seem to find new attacks daily.
That’s why we are so fortunate to have allies like President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on our side. Just this week, they intervened to require health insurance companies to cover contraceptives for women at no cost, as part of new health reform law.
Women were among the biggest winners in the new law, and it keeps paying dividends. The law requires insurance companies to provide free preventive care for women. Many of my colleagues and I have been asking the administration to listen to the experts and include birth control as the preventive care package is defined. We are thrilled that the administration has heeded our calls and adopted the science-based guidance from the Institute of Medicine on contraceptive coverage.
This is a game-changer for women. It’s a game-changer for our health. And it’s a game-changer for our country.
And in fact, I hope this is an omen of more good things to come from Washington to protect women’s health, especially at a time when my state of Wisconsin and many other states are actively working to restrict women’s rights.
Women across the country rely on birth control and, sadly, many can’t afford it. Thirty-six million women in the United States are in need of contraception, and more than one in three has struggled to cover the cost of prescription birth control. That’s easy to understand with some co-payments nearing $50 a month. These new guidelines will remove cost barriers and make an immediate difference in the lives of women.
This change may help our nation’s bottom line too. According to the Guttmacher Institute, unintended pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers $11 billion every year. A 2006 study found that two-thirds of births from unintended pregnancies–more than one million births–are publicly funded. Free insurance coverage for birth control will increase access, and prevent unintended pregnancies.
The war against women rages on and we must remain vigilant and continue fighting. But this is a moment to pause and celebrate a great victory for women and their families.