August 1 marked a momentous day for women. President Obama’s no-cost birth-control policy went into effect as part of the Affordable Care Act. This law holds some of the most important advances for women that we will probably see in our lifetimes.
There are so many prevention services that women will now get at no cost, including screenings for gestational diabetes, breastfeeding support, and, of course, birth control coverage.
At NARAL Pro-Choice America, we wholeheartedly believe that contraception is basic health care. In fact, 99 percent of women use contraception at some point in their lives.
But up until now, many women were forced to choose between their birth control and their groceries, because many struggle with the cost of contraception. And even for women who have been fortunate to have contraceptive coverage, many insurance plans charged high deductibles that put contraception out of reach. Fifty percent of Latinas say that due to the high cost of birth control, they can’t afford to use it consistently. But this is all starting to change. Thanks to the new policy, many women will now have greater access to family-planning services.
While we applaud this great victory for American women, we still face opposition from anti-contraception forces.
First there’s the inflammatory rhetoric. Anti-choice Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) went so far as to compare Obama’s contraceptive-coverage policy to the attack on Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
Second, our opponents have also devised a massive litigation strategy. To date, 24 lawsuits have been filed by various organizations, individuals, and states challenging the policy. In one case, heating and air-conditioning business owners who personally oppose contraception asked the court for permission to discriminate against their employees by denying them insurance coverage of birth control. The judge granted the business the temporary right to refuse to comply with the policy while the court prepares to hear the case.
Lastly, the House has voted no less than 33 times to repeal, undermine, or defund the health-reform law that makes contraceptive coverage possible. On top of that, seven bills have been introduced that would cancel the benefit. Most recently, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) introduced a bill would allow any employer – even one in the private sector who owns a fast-food restaurant or a sporting-goods store – to refuse to provide this benefit based on his personal beliefs. The effect could place millions of Americans’ contraceptive coverage in jeopardy.
NARAL Pro-Choice America will continue to support this policy, and we hope you join us in fighting back against these attacks. Right now, I urge you to send a message to your lawmaker opposing Rep. Sensenbrenner’s anti-contraception bill. Your message to Capitol Hill is the best way to make your voice supporting no-cost birth control loud and clear.
Nancy Keenan is a nationally recognized progressive leader who brings her experience as a state legislator and statewide elected official to her role as president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Nancy marshals NARAL Pro-Choice America’s resources-the power of people, political acumen, and policy expertise-to lead the charge to protect a woman’s right to choose.
Under Keenan’s leadership, NARAL Pro-Choice America launched a research project in Arizona and New Mexico in partnership with community organizations examining Latinas’ views on reproductive rights issues. In addition, The New York Times and Newsweek have written about her organization’s ground-breaking and ongoing public-opinion research of the Millennial Generation’s views on abortion rights.