Editor’s Note: This blog was updated on Wednesday, March 11th at 12:56 pm ET to delete a statistic found to be in error and attributed to the wrong source. The statement, regarding women paying higher health premiums than men remains true, but the specific statistic was removed and the source has been changed to reflect this correction.
The Senate tonight passed the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill, originally passed by the House of Representatives two weeks ago. Included in the bill was a provision, known as the "Affordable Birth Control Act," that will make birth control more available and affordable for women who obtain contraceptives at community health centers and college clinics.
This is welcome news for women and their families. In the midst of the current economic crisis, approximately 14,000 Americans are losing health coverage every day. Advocates have argued that because of this, ensuring access to basic healthcare — including
affordable birth control — is more important than ever. This is especially true for women because as a group they pay more than men do in meeting their health needs. Women of childbearing age spend more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men, in part because of
reproductive health-related supplies and services.
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Access to contraception has been adversely affected in recent years both by politics and by cost. According to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA):
"In 2005, Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, which tightened eligibility for nominally priced drugs. In doing so, Congress inadvertently cut off safety-net providers and every college and university health center from obtaining contraception at a low cost, and passing on those savings to their patients. As a result, women have been paying up to 10 times more each month for basic contraception."
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) made one among several failed attempts by a small group of male Republican Senators seeking to limit women’s access to contraception by attempting to strike the ABC provision from the bill, arguing fallaciously that it constituted an earmark, which it does not. No federal funds are involved.
Upon passage of the Senate bill, Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY), a long-time champion of women’s human rights and women’s health, stated:
“At no-cost to the American taxpayer, this simple fix restores affordable access to safe, effective birth control for millions of college-age and low-income women. This provision will reduce unplanned pregnancies and eliminate a considerable financial burden for many women, especially those hit hardest by our current economic downturn. I look forward to President Obama swiftly signing this measure into law.”
Women’s groups immediately celebrated passage of this critical measure. As PPFA President Cecile Richards said in an official statement:
“We applaud Congress for righting a wrong that has restricted access to basic but critical preventive health care services, and left millions of women at risk of unintended pregnancy. The passing of today’s legislation is a victory for women’s health and especially for women who have struggled to afford the rising costs of basic contraception in these tough economic times.”
PPFA also publicly commended Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and David Obey (D-WI) for their leadership on behalf of American women and their families.