With Governor’s Signature, Massachusetts protects birth control access
For Immediate Release: Nov. 20, 2017 (Updated: Nov. 21, 2017, 5:54 p.m.)
BOSTON — A little over a month after the Trump Administration unraveled the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker today signed into law legislation that protects no-copay insurance coverage for birth control from federal assaults on health care. The new ACCESS law protects many Massachusetts residents from changes to the federal law’s contraceptive coverage requirements by codifying the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of no copay birth control coverage into state law.
Birth control has played a profound role in the lives of women for generations and the swift passage of ACCESS is a monumental victory for Massachusetts women and families. No matter who they are or where they live, everyone deserves the ability to stay healthy, plan their families, and focus on their futures. While millions of women nationwide must continue to worry their bosses will take away their birth control access, our state legislature and governor have put these worries to rest here, prioritizing people’s wellbeing and health over D.C. politics.- Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts
In addition to protecting care, the law builds on current protections by dismantling persistent barriers to contraception. The law proactively expands access to birth control by requiring coverage of a 12-month supply of birth control in a single dispensing and establishes no cost-sharing for over-the-counter emergency contraception purchased without a prescription.
"While the Trump Administration and an anti-Choice Congress continue to work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its guarantee of copay free contraception, the Massachusetts legislature and Governor have taken a firm stand in favor of women’s reproductive freedom by passing the ACCESS bill. On October 6th, the Trump administration gutted the contraceptive coverage mandate. Massachusetts becomes the first state in the nation to directly respond to this federal attack by immediately by codifying the ACA's contraceptive coverage protections into state law and expanding on those protections. Now, Massachusetts law ensures that most Bay Staters can access the form of contraception that works best for them regardless of federal attacks on the ACA. Our work does not end here. We will continue to fight to ensure that women in Massachusetts can control all aspects of their reproduction, including the right to abortion care and the right to bear and care for healthy children," said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.
With the signing of this legislation, Massachusetts becomes the first state to take legislative action since the Trump Administration used the guise of religious freedom to put a woman’s most personal decisions—when and if to have a child—in the hands of her employer or university. Under new rules established by the Trump Administration, virtually any employer, corporation, university or college can deny birth control coverage to their employees for any religious or undefined moral objection. Previously under the ACA, religious organizations were exempted from the requirement but their employees were ensured contraceptive coverage through other means.
“Today, we applaud the state legislature and governor for their courage and conviction. The success of the contraceptive ACCESS bill confirms the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ leadership in reproductive rights and health care. Nevertheless, we must continue to do all we can to protect women across Massachusetts from the discriminatory policies of the Trump Administration, which continues to use the banner of religion to wage a war on women’s rights and limit the provision of essential health care to those who need it most,” said Carol Rose, executive director of ACLU of Massachusetts.
Given the widely recognized benefits of birth control, this legislation is supported by patients, providers, business leaders, and a wide range of organizations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans. The ACCESS bill passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives 140-16 with overwhelming, bipartisan support and unanimously passed the Massachusetts Senate, 27-0.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurers to cover preventive care, including contraception, with no cost-sharing, removing financial barriers to care and enabling women to choose the contraceptive method that works best for them. Under the ACA, 62 million women—including 1.4 million in Massachusetts—currently have access to no co-pay preventive care, including contraception. Access to affordable birth control has had a demonstrable positive impact on women’s economic advancement, educational attainment, and health outcomes for decades. Thanks in large part to expanded access to birth control, rates of unintended pregnancy, pregnancy among teens, and abortion are at their lowest points in decades.
The Trump administration’s birth control rules were released on October 6 and immediately went into effect, allowing virtually any employer (nonprofit, small business, large corporation, private, or publicly held), school, or other entity to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage for religious or moral reasons — a standard unprecedented in its vagueness. It also eliminates the workaround that guaranteed women would continue to receive coverage for birth control even if their employers opted out of providing coverage.
Birth control is not controversial: It’s something the vast majority of women will use in the course of their lifetime. A majority of Americans support no-copay birth control — because they understand that women’s ability to access basic health care should not be up for debate. That support holds when questions about any moral or religious objection are taken into account, according to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll. Under the Affordable Care Act, religious houses of worship an accommodation that still ensured their employees could get coverage through other means.