Well, if nothing else, you can’t say that politicians in New Jersey give up easily. For the third time since 2010, the state senate has voted to reinstate almost $7.5 million in family planning funding that Governor Chris Christie cut from the state budget.
The legislation (S2899) seeks to take advantage of an unexpected state revenue boost estimated between $511 million and $913 million. Introduced last week and put on the fast track to passage, the bill cleared the Senate 26 to 13 – just one vote short of the two-thirds majority necessary to overturn a potential veto by Christie.
“We are in the second decade of the 21st century, and the fight over poor women’s access to birth control I thought was finished,” said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen).
With additional money coming into the state this time, as well as a matching grant of $9 million for an additional $1 million in low income family planning services proposed in the senate, it has become fairly obvious Christie will not be able to hide behind the fig leaf of “fiscal restraint” and needed budget cuts if he does veto the bill again.
No, it would be clear that it has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with stopping women’s ability to control their own bodies.
Insurance companies typically cover only a 30-to-90-day supply of birth control, posing a logistical hurdle for individuals who may live miles away from the nearest pharmacy, and potentially causing some using oral contraceptives to skip pills.
Private and public health insurance must cover up to a year’s supply of birth control under a new Hawaii law that advocates called the nation’s “strongest.”
The measure, signed by state Gov. David Ige (D) on Tuesday, applies to all FDA-approved contraceptive medications and devices.
Hawaii joins Washington, D.C., which also requires public and private insurers to cover up to 12 months of birth control at a time.
Oregon passed a similar measure in 2015, but that law requires patients to obtain an initial three-month supply of contraception before individuals can receive the full 12-month supply—which the Hawaii policy does not.
“At a time when politicians nationwide are chipping away at reproductive health care access, Hawaii is bucking the trend and setting a confident example of what states can do to actually improve access,” Laurie Field, Hawaii legislative director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in a statement.
Insurance companies typically cover only a 30-to-90-day supply of birth control, posing a logistical hurdle for individuals who may live miles away from the nearest pharmacy, and potentially causing some using oral contraceptives to skip pills. Both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend supplying up to one year of oral contraceptives at a time, as the Hawaii Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health noted in a 2016 conference report.
Fifty-sex percent of pregnancies in Hawaii are unintended, compared to the national average of 45 percent, according to figures from the Guttmacher Institute.
Women who received a year’s supply of birth control were about a third less likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy and were 46 percent less likely to have an abortion, compared to those receiving a one- or three-month supply, according to a 2011 study of 84,401 California women published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Reproductive rights advocates had championed the legislation, which was also backed by ACOG–Hawaii Section, the Hawaii Medical Association, and the Hawaii Public Health Association, among other medical groups.
“Everyone deserves affordable and accessible birth control that works for us, regardless of income or type of insurance,” Planned Parenthood’s Field said in her statement.
“It is particularly foolish to target Title X at a time when the nation is at the precipice of a public health emergency resulting from the Zika virus,” National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association President and CEO Clare Coleman said in the group’s response.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are once again using the appropriations process to target Title X federal family planning services for low-income people.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) touted how the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill would gut what he called a “controversial” federal program. To the contrary, many low-income people in the United States regard Title X as their only means to obtain critical health care, including family planning services, contraception, well-woman visits, cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infections screenings, and other preventive services.
Title X grants serve a highly vulnerable population—more than 90 percent women, nearly three-fifths people of color, and mostly uninsured or young, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) 2014 family planning annual report.The grants go to a network of more than 4,100 health and community service agencies. Centers that are funded by Title X are “particularly good” at providing women with the most effective contraceptive methods, like intrauterine devices and implants, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Nevertheless, the draft bill would eliminate $286 million from Title X and another $108 million for federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, according to a spokesperson for Appropriations Committee Democrats.
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Democrats will “raise strong objections” at Thursday’s subcommittee markup of the bill and again at next week’s planned full committee markup, the spokesperson told Rewire in an email.
If precedent holds, their voices will be heard. Republicans unsuccessfully targeted Title X funding in last year’s LHHS funding bill. The latest bid marks the fifth attempt to do so in seven years, according to a statement from the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA). Yet, none of the proposed eliminations have ever been enacted into law, said the spokesperson for Appropriations Committee Democrats.
“Republicans need Democratic votes in Congress and the signature of a Democratic president in order to enact [a]ppropriations law, and Democrats will not vote for bills that contain divisive, poison pill riders and eliminations like this, which target women’s reproductive rights,” he said.
A spokesperson for Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), chair of the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the bill and a vocal reproductive health care foe who recently targeted AmeriCorps’ questionable abortion controversy, did not return Rewire’s request for comment; nor did a spokesperson for Rogers.
Title X funds can’t be used for abortion care. But because about a quarter of the funds go to Planned Parenthood affiliates, anti-choice Republicans have used Title X as a political football for years, starting in 2011 when the GOP threatened a government shutdown over the issue.
“It is particularly foolish to target Title X at a time when the nation is at the precipice of a public health emergency resulting from the Zika virus,” NFPRHA President and CEO Clare Coleman said in the group’s response. “For the House to propose defunding the very provider network that is being called upon to address and control the risk to women who may be seeking to prevent pregnancy is absurd.”