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that would have repealed Obama's Affordable Care Act.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
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
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.