PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Two female lawmakers stressed the importance of protecting women’s access to birth control on a state level in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Rep. Katherine Kazarian, D-East Providence, and Sen. Dawn Euer, D-Jamestown, introduced matching bills this session that would protect a woman’s access to birth control in Rhode Island, regardless of any changes at the federal level. The women took aim at the Trump administration and congressional Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
A key provision in the ACA allows women to access birth control pills, as well as long-term options such as intrauterine devices, known as IUDs, or other implants, for a $0 co-pay.
Prior to the ACA provision, women would pay as much as $500 for an IUD, said Emily White, a gynecologist with Providence Community Health Centers. Teenage pregnancy in Rhode Island has decreased since the “effective, safe devices” have become more regularly available, White said.
“I prescribe birth control every day so that women can prevent pregnancy,” White said. “However, I also prescribe it for other reasons. I often treat women who have such heavy bleeding they cannot go to work and sometimes develop such severe anemia that they need blood transfusions. Birth control is often the first-line treatment.”
Kazarian and Euer focused their remarks on the freedom that family planning affords women.
“Freedom and full equality cannot be achieved unless we all have the opportunity to control our lives at the most basic level: our bodies, our families, and our life’s paths,” said Euer. “Birth control is not controversial. It’s basic health care.”
This was echoed by Hilary Levy Friedman, president of the Rhode Island National Organization for Women, who quoted Margaret Sanger.
“One hundred years ago, we’d all be arrested for being here today,” she said. “Clearly, we don’t want to go back to that time. And we won’t go back, because we can’t go back.”
The bills (H7625 and S2529) would require all health insurance contracts effective after Jan. 1, 2019, to provide coverage to the insured, his or her spouse, and dependents for all FDA-approved contraception. This includes pills, devices, voluntary sterilization procedures, patient education and counseling and follow-up services.
Medicaid recipients would have coverage for a 12-month supply of birth control, according to the bills’ texts.
If the legislation passes, Rhode Island would follow Massachusetts, which passed similar legislation in November.