Health

Get Free Birth Control While You Still Can

Republicans are attempting to make 55 million women pay more for their prescription birth control while also cutting funding for children in low-income families.

by Susan Rinkunas
Jan 12 2017, 7:51pm

Senate Republicans got started on their quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act early this morning by introducing a budget resolution that would gut major aspects of the healthcare law, including protection against preexisting conditions and no-copay contraception coverage. The measure passed 51-48. (There are 52 Senate Republicans; only Rand Paul voted against it.)

Seventeen amendments to the resolution were proposed, most of them by Democrats, and every single one was voted down. As Politico writer Dan Diamond noted, these amendments included provisions to protect some of the most popular aspects of Obamacare:

Republicans also voted against protecting Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). They also shut down an amendment that would have protected access to mental healthcare. To summarize: Republicans are attempting to make 55 million women pay more for their prescription birth control while also cutting funding for children in low-income families. This despite the fact that eliminating cost barriers has been shown to improve usage of the most effective forms of birth control and thereby reduce the number of unintended pregnancies—and the reality that federally funded family planning programs actually save the government money. On top of this, millions of women with Medicaid could lose their insurance altogether and, with it, the free annual well-woman visit that covers cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and birth control counseling.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand filed an amendment specifically to protect women's health coverage, which was eventually voted down, but in a speech on the Senate Floor she railed against the partisan attacks on women. "The election in November was not about women's healthcare," she said. "No one came to Congress with a mandate to take away women's access to mammograms and cancer screenings. But now, we are one big step closer to once again making it impossible for millions of American women to see a doctor when they need to, to access basic medicine, reproductive healthcare services so they can live happy, healthy, productive lives."

The House is expected to vote on the measure tomorrow. The Washington Post reports that moderate Republicans have reservations about effectively repealing the law without more details about its replacement. But regardless, tomorrow's House vote wouldn't immediately kill Obamacare. This is rather the first step among many to taking it all apart: The resolution voted on this morning instructs the House to come up with its own repeal bill, which would go back to the Senate for approval and possibly more amendments, like defunding Planned Parenthood, which Republicans seem extremely eager to do. Finally, the budget bill would go to President-elect Trump—who would definitely sign it.