Make Sure New York Insures Contraception If Washington Won’t
June 21, 2017
By Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, as published by The New York Daily News, on June 20, 2017.
Troubling news leaked earlier this month that the Trump administration may soon allow contraception costs for women to soar, by blowing a truck-sized loophole in the federal law that requires employer insurance plans to provide free access. This would be a devastating setback for the millions of women who struggled to afford birth control before that protection — provided by the Affordable Care Act — went into effect.
Fortunately, if state lawmakers act quickly, they can ensure that no family is ever impacted by Trump’s rollback. How? By passing my legislation, the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which has already passed the Democratic state Assembly and has a Republican sponsor in the Republican-controlled State Senate.
But time is running out in this year’s legislative session, so lawmakers need to hear your voice of support.
A wide majority of Americans support free contraception coverage, not only because it assists in family planning, but because many now believe access to contraception is a fundamental right of all women.
I have been part of the pro-choice movement since I was 17 years old, when I worked at an abortion clinic in Washington, D.C. This was a year before Roe v. Wade, when the District of Columbia was the only city in the entire Southeast where a woman could obtain a safe, legal abortion. I used to drive our patients from the airport to the clinic and back again.
I still remember the fear in the eyes of many women as they tried to leave the recovery room too early because they wanted to get home as quickly as possible. Their parents or husbands or bosses had no idea they were there. Abortion was still something that was whispered about — and anti-women laws made it far more dangerous than it should have been.
Our movement has made tremendous progress since then, but progress is fragile — and Trump’s agenda on women’s reproductive health rights has been a rude awakening.
The administration recently vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, proposed hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid and pushed through the House a health care bill that would effectively cut off access to reproductive healthcare for millions of women.
Now the administration wants to give corporations the power to take contraceptive coverage away from their employees. The proposed regulations would expand a narrow exemption for houses of worship, and allow any employer with a religious or “moral” objection to opt out of covering contraceptives without co-pays.
The proposed regulations would put contraceptives out of reach for many low-income women. Without insurance, oral contraceptives can cost around $1,200 per year. That’s more than four weeks’ work at the federal minimum wage. It’s no wonder that before the contraceptive mandate, 55% of women ages 18 to 34 went through times when they couldn’t afford to use birth control consistently, making unplanned pregnancies more likely.
Equitable coverage for women’s healthcare needs, including contraception, has had a huge and positive impact. The share of reproductive-age women of who pay out of pocket for oral contraceptives has dropped from more than 20% to less than 4% under the Affordable Care Act. American women now save roughly $1.4 billion per year on oral contraceptives alone — and more women now have the financial freedom to choose longer lasting, more effective methods like intrauterine devices.
While we must fight to preserve all reproductive health rights in Washington, we also must put in an extra layer of protection at the state level.
Earlier this year, I introduced the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would require all health plans that are subject to state regulation to provide cost-free contraceptive coverage. It would also extend the mandate the to cover emergency contraception and male contraception.
At least five other states have passed similar bills, and, thanks to the leadership of Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Kevin Cahill the, New York State Assembly passed it in January. Unfortunately, it’s now stuck in the State Senate.
I am encouraged by the fact that Republican State Senator John Bonacic has sponsored the legislation (and that Gov. Cuomo has proposed similar regulations), but all New Yorkers need to let their state senators know that this important bill needs to be voted on before the session ends June 21.
There’s no time to lose. New federal regulations could go into effect at any time.
Lawmakers’ phone lines are open — now is the time to make your voice heard.