In January, female legislators in Connecticut proposed bills that would protect copay-free access to birth control for insurance plans in our state.

The bill, SB 586, moved forward from the Insurance Committee but then became tangled in various amendments and failed to be passed by the Connecticut House or Senate before the regular session ended on June 7. However, because of imminent threats to contraceptive coverage, members of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut are asking state legislators to find a way to pass the bill during the special session this summer.

Today, our eyes are on the U.S. Senate to see how deeply our healthcare will be impacted by the Republicans proposed healthcare bill. The overall losses in coverage, particularly in relation to Medicaid recipients, and the proposed exclusion of Planned Parenthood from Medicaid reimbursements are likely to have profoundly harmful impacts on reproductive health in Connecticut.

Outside of this piece of legislation however, there remain other threats to our coverage. Although the Republican’s healthcare bill will leave intact the broad requirements for preventive services, we have already seen other routes through which the Trump administration has attacked women’s vital contraceptive benefits.

Contraceptive coverage is required as part of a package of “women’s preventive services” under the Affordable Care Act. These benefits also include breast cancer screening, breastfeeding services and supplies, and well-women preventive visits. All of these are required to be covered on insurance plans without cost sharing to patients. Studies have shown that these benefits had a dramatic impact on the ability of women to access birth control, and to be able to choose more expensive forms of long-lasting birth control such as IUDs. Recent polling has shown that one third of women of reproductive age would not be able to afford a copay of more than $10 for birth control if they had to buy it today.

Already, the Trump administration has taken action to expand the religious exemption to insurers’ and employers’ requirements to cover contraceptives, even as they acknowledge the fact that hundreds of thousands of women may lose coverage. Additionally, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has the power to eliminate the regulation requiring copay-free birth control, and has openly voiced his dislike for the coverage requirement. The risks to contraceptive coverage are real and immediate.

Legislators may be reticent to push this forward during the special session. But the impacts of copay-free birth control have been significant. Insurance carriers are happy to continue current practices with no additional mandates, and many medical providers testified to the importance of this legislation. The likelihood of attacks on contraceptive coverage, and the importance of these benefits to women across Connecticut, means that the Connecticut General Assembly cannot afford to wait.

Our message is simple and we hope our elected officials will hear our voices: please protect our care, and ensure individuals across our state continue to have the same access to contraceptives as they do today.

Sarah Croucher is the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut. For the past four decades NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut has been advocating for the passage of pro-choice legislation and fighting against anti-choice policies in our state. Our members use the political advocacy process to fight for reproductive rights and abortion access. Click here to take Action today.

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