Massachusetts becomes first state to take legislative action in the wake of Trump’s rule gutting birth control mandate
Planned Parenthood issues a call to action--with birth control still at risk for millions outside Massachusetts
BOSTON, MA —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,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts.
“Every person has a fundamental right to decide whether and when to have children, and Massachusetts is at the forefront of safeguarding those freedoms. Birth control coverage is still at risk for women nationwide under the Trump Administration. We need everyone -- lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, business leaders, artists, citizens -- to follow Massachusetts’ lead and take action,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
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. Research shows that having a full 12-month supply of birth control all at once can reduce the chance of unintended pregnancy by 30 percent.
"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 stand in favor of women’s reproductive freedom by passing the ACCESS bill. This legislation is a tremendous step towards guaranteeing that every woman can access the form of contraception that works best for her, and our work must continue 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, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, and The Alliance for Business Leadership. 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.
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 recentPolitico/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.
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.
This is all part of a broader agenda to turn back the clock on access to sexual and reproductive health. Since day one, this administration put women’s rights in its crosshairs. The Trump Administration has undermined women’s health and rights at every turn – by implementing an expanded global gag rule, undermining the nation’s family planning program, rolling back safeguards for transgender students, threatening DACA recipients, revoking Obama's Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Orders, attempting to block millions from accessing preventive care at Planned Parenthood, and more. These dangerous policies disproportionately impact people who already face structural barriers to accessing care including people of color, immigrants, young people, and members of the LGBTQ community -- and those whose identities overlap face overlapping barriers.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.