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Lawmakers Look to Protect Birth Control03/28 06:10

   CARSON CITY, Nevada (AP) -- Even with the Republican failure to repeal 
Barack Obama's health care law, Democratic lawmakers in some states are 
pressing ahead with efforts to protect birth control access, Planned Parenthood 
funding and abortion coverage in case they are jeopardized in the future.

   Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives withdrew a bill last week 
that would have repealed Obama's Affordable Care Act. It would have halted 
federal funding for Planned Parenthood and curtailed the ability of many 
low-income women to obtain affordable birth control.

   Despite that setback for the GOP, several Republicans said Congress might 
revisit health care in the future, and anti-abortion leaders have stressed they 
will not abandon their campaign to defund Planned Parenthood. The group is the 
No. 1 abortion provider in the U.S. but also offers extensive birth control and 
health-screening services.

   In Nevada, state lawmakers and health advocates say they will continue to 
promote bills that would allow women to access 12-month supplies of birth 
control and require all health insurers to cover contraceptives at no extra 
charge, regardless of religious objections.

   Another Nevada proposal seeks to provide alternative funding to help 
organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Some government-run clinics that rely 
on federal grants and are on the brink of closure also would benefit.

   "Nevadans need these protections regardless of what's happening in 
Congress," said Elisa Cafferata, president of Nevada Advocates for Planned 
Parenthood Affiliates. "Family planning and preventative health care are still 
very much threatened."

   Democratic state Sen. Julia Ratti said it was important to establish 
protections in state law "so that, regardless of what future federal provisions 
come through, we know we're doing the right thing in Nevada."

   It's unclear whether Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, will sign or veto 
the bills if they reach his desk.

   Majority Democrats in the Maryland Legislature, with backing from some 
Republicans, plan to continue work on a bill that would maintain family 
planning services provided by Planned Parenthood if the group ever lost federal 
funding. The measure, which has cleared the House of Delegates and is now 
pending in the Senate, would direct $2 million from Maryland's Medicaid budget 
to family planning, as well as $700,000 from the state's general fund.

   The bill's chief sponsor, state Delegate Shane Pendergrass, said Maryland 
would be unwise to assume that congressional Republicans were finished with 
efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

   "Could this come back in six months? Maybe," she said. "Do we want to make 
sure we're prepared if something happens? You bet we do."

   In Oregon, Democratic state Rep. Jeff Barker said deliberations would 
continue on a bill he is sponsoring that would require health insurers to cover 
a full range of services, drugs and products related to reproductive health, 
including contraceptives, with no co-pay or deductible. It also would ban any 
government interference in a woman's choice to have an abortion.

   "It will be contentious, but I believe it will pass," Barker said. "We want 
to be sure that women have all their reproductive health needs taken care of."

   The bill, which is awaiting referral to a House committee, could be up for a 
floor vote sometime next month.

   "Our plan is to still move it forward," said House Speaker Tina Kotek, a 
Democrat. "It's really important to a lot of people on this particular area of 
health care."

   Kotek also expressed no interest in tweaking the bill's language to the 
liking of Providence Health Plans, a Catholic-sponsored organization currently 
covering 260,000 Oregonians. Last week, Providence threatened to pull out of 
the Oregon insurance market if the abortion proposal passes.

   At the national level, Planned Parenthood celebrated the collapse of the GOP 
health care overhaul effort, yet acknowledged that it will remain a target of 
the anti-abortion movement and its allies.

   "We know this is the beginning, not the end," said Planned Parenthood's 
president, Cecile Richards.

   Federal law already prohibits federal money from being used to pay for most 
abortions, but the now-abandoned GOP health overhaul would have cut off more 
than $400 million in Medicaid reimbursements and other federal funding to 
Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services. That includes birth control 
provided to about 2 million women annually.

   Kristi Hamrick of Americans United for Life, in an email, said the push to 
defund Planned Parenthood would continue.

   "Too early to say how this might play out," she wrote.


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