States are Stepping Up for Women’s RightsJun 20th, 2016 | By admin | Category: Reproductive Rights/Women's Rights
By Suzanne York, www.transition-earth.org.Lately it seems that most of the news on women’s reproductive rights is focused on the shutting down of access to reproductive health/family planning services.
But there are actually some good policies on women’s reproductive health that have been passed this year at the state level. In May, the state of Maryland signed into law the Maryland Contraceptive Equity Act. The law, which will go into effect in January 2018, will close gaps in contraception coverage in insurance plans and Medicaid.
It provides the most comprehensive coverage of contraception in the U.S., putting Maryland at the forefront in ensuring women can access the birth control that is right for them. Encouragingly, the state’s pioneering legislation passed with bipartisan support.
According to Planned Parenthood of Maryland, major gains in contraceptive coverage have recently been achieved, but despite this, barriers to contraception coverage continue to exist. The Contraceptive Equity Act will at least break down some of those barriers.
This new law, which goes further than the Affordable Care Act, will ensure that individuals can access the birth control that works best for them by:
- eliminating most co-pays and all prescriptions for birth control;
- Allowing women to receive six months of birth control at one time;
- Providing insurance coverage for over-the-counter contraceptive medications, including emergency contraception like Plan B;
- No insurance preauthorization is required for long-acting reversible contraceptives such as Norplant and Depo-Provera shots, and intrauterine devices.
Lest one think men are being excluded, Maryland’s law provides contraceptive equity for men by broadening coverage for vasectomies (the Affordable Care Act only applies to contraceptive methods used by women).
Maryland joins Oregon and California in making access to contraceptives easier for its citizens. The two west coast states recently passed laws allowing pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives in drugstores.
Oregon, and also Washington, D.C., require insurance companies to allow women to obtain 12 months’ worth of birth control pills at a time. According to a 2011 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who received a year’s supply of birth control pills were 30 percent less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than those who received either a one-month or three-month supply of pills. Last month, the California State Senate approved a bill that would require health plans to cover up to a 12-month supply of contraceptives.
Karen Nelson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, told the Baltimore Sun that “When so many states and so many pockets of the country are trying to take away reproductive health care and take away rights of women, Maryland is saying, ‘We are going to provide more health care coverage and more access to birth control.”
For more good news, read this article by the New York Times on the quiet shift taking place in how women obtain birth control. According to the Times, “a growing assortment of new apps and websites now make it possible to get prescription contraceptives without going to the doctor.” The advantage of the apps is that no legislative approval is required since clinicians still write the prescriptions. Doctors and medical professionals are involved, just not politicians.
In a country where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended, the move by states and tech are a welcome and overdue change in the right direction. Women who want access to contraceptives shouldn’t have to overcome hurdles for something that should be a basic right – the right to a healthy life.
Suzanne York is Project Director of Transition Earth.