Yet another attack on women's health

Late Saturday night, the House voted for the 43rd time to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. They approved an amendment that would delay implementation until 2015, leaving millions of people without health coverage in the interim – and they didn’t stop there. A small group of extreme members of the House pushed through a provision that goes even further: permanently allowing employers and insurance companies to refuse to cover women’s preventive health care if they have a personal “moral” objection.

That includes birth control, HPV testing, breastfeeding services, and counseling for domestic violence. Any employer could refuse to cover them, and women would have no recourse.

To be clear: The amendment only covers the women’s preventive benefit – employers wouldn’t be able to refuse to cover preventive care specific to men for “moral” reasons.

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The majority of Americans don’t support these attacks on women’s health. They know that birth control is basic health care – and it’s a key economic issue for women and their families. More than a third of women say they’ve struggled to afford to pay for their birth control, and as a result, haven’t used it consistently. But studies show that when cost isn’t a factor, women choose the method that’s right for them – preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the need for abortion.

At Planned Parenthood, we hear from women every day who count on access to affordable birth control – like Mollie from New Hampshire, a recently engaged graduate student who has been able to afford birth control for the first time thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Mollie says: “An unintended pregnancy now would be devastating to me; I would have to choose between school or a child, and that is a choice that would undo me. I am so grateful that my birth control is affordable and accessible. I will be happy to have a professional degree that is employable when I start my family!”

Women also come to Planned Parenthood health centers seeking birth control control for endometriosis, cramps, acne, or other health reasons. In fact, 58% of women who use the Pill rely on it at least in part for something other than contraception. Elaine in Tennessee, who has used birth control since she developed ovarian cysts at age 17, says: “Even with insurance, I was paying about $400 a year. When I was surprised by my pharmacist and told I was suddenly paying nothing, I was thrilled! It’s nice to get a break.”

Molly and Elaine are in good company. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 27 million women across the country have already received preventive health care with no copay, and an estimated 47 million will benefit when the law takes full effect. If Republicans in Congress succeed in rolling back the birth control benefit, these are the women who will pay the price.

The idea that an employer could deny women access to basic preventive health care, or refuse to cover a prescription medication just because they disagree with one of its uses – that’s unacceptable. As the leading women’s health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood has fought hard to protect this benefit from the beginning – and we’re not going to let up now.

It’s time for Congress to focus on jobs and the economy, not on pushing an extreme agenda against women’s access to health care.

Singiser is VP for Public Policy, Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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