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« Reproductive health at risk in Congressional funding fights! | Main | Title X Family Planning Program under attack! »
Thursday
Mar082018

What’s at stake this International Women’s Day?

So many gains for women’s health, and so much at risk from new attacks!
 
Today, March 8th, marks International Women’s Day. We’re taking a moment to recognize all the once-in-a-generation advances we’ve seen for women’s health because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But, we’re also acutely aware that we need to keep up our vigorous resistance to the attacks on women’s health that are taking place practically every week in Washington, D.C., and in some of the states.
 
What are we celebrating today? The ACA has improved health coverage for millions of women. For example:
  • The uninsured rate for women has been cut nearly in half.
  • An estimated 53 million women now have contraceptive coverage without co-pays.
  • Insurance plans must cover maternity care without charging us extra.
  • Women can’t be charged more than men for the same health plan.
  • Women can’t be denied coverage or charged more because of “pre-existing conditions” such as having once been sexually assaulted, or having had a Cesarean section delivery.
But many of these hard-won gains have been under steady attack from the Trump administration and Congressional leaders for more than a year. Since taking office, Trump has tried to repeal or undermine the ACA, roll back contraceptive coverage requirements, prevent women from using their Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood and sabotage last fall’s ACA open enrollment period. So far this year, we’ve seen the Trump administration endorse cheap short-term “junk” health plans that offer inadequate coverage (such as no maternity care), propose “religious refusal” rules that would make it easier for health providers to deny care to women and LGBTQ people, and allow states to impose burdensome work requirements on Medicaid enrollees (which are likely to cause women to lose coverage).
 
This week, we learned that an advocate of “abstinence-only” sex education will be the final decision-maker on which clinics and agencies receive federal Title X family planning grants! Meanwhile, House Republicans are demanding the inclusion ofanti-reproductive health riders in the omnibus spending package needed to keep the federal government open.


That’s why it is important that women all across the country stand up and speak out against these attacks on our health. Make your voices heard! You can call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to urge your members of Congress to protect the gains for women’s health care we are celebrating today.
 
Reproductive Parity Act passes in Washington State!
 
Our Seattle-based regional coordinator, Northwest Health Law Advocates (NoHLA),has had a major win with the passage of the Reproductive Parity Act. The bill requires Washington health plans issued on or after January 1, 2019, to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods and voluntary sterilization with no cost-sharing, as well as all FDA approved over-the-counter contraceptives without a prescription. In addition, it requires coverage of abortion services in a substantially equivalent manner as maternity care and services, and subject to the same cost-sharing as maternity coverage. Not all plans, however, are subject to the Reproductive Parity Act, such as self-insured health plans, which are regulated at the federal level.
 
“This bill ensures Washingtonians have access to all FDA approved contraceptives, products, and devices free of cost-sharing barriers and prescription requirements for over-the counter contraceptives and products, and protects the right of women to access abortion services. We are thankful to our partners and legislators for working diligently to safeguard the right to reproductive health care and services,” said NoHLA Staff Attorney Huma Zarif.
 
Constitutional Amendment Restricting Abortion Goes to the Ballot in WV
 
Meanwhile, in West Virginia, our Charleston-based regional coordinatorWV FREE is leading the charge against a harmful proposed state constitutional amendment that would take away the constitutional right to abortion in that state. On Monday, West Virginia lawmakers passed Senate Joint Resolution 12, the “no constitutional right to abortion” measure, which will now go to the ballot for a public vote during the general election this November.
 
WV Free and its coalition partners are fighting back against this egregious attack on women’s health. On Saturday, WV FREE and partners held a rally at the West Virginia State Capitol, where West Virginians from all over the state joined together to tell politicians not to play politics with women’s health care (#HealthNotPolitics). WV FREE Executive Director Margaret Chapman Pomponio (second to left) is shown with WV advocates Bradley Milam, Jen Wagner, and Kate Chilko pictured above (left to right) at the Enough! Rally for Women’s Lives.
 
What’s behind this attack? In 1993, the Supreme Court of West Virginia ruled that the state constitution protects women’s health care, and that if the state Medicaid program funds pregnancy care, it must include all pregnancy related medical services, including abortion. Now, with Senate Joint Resolution 12, the West Virginia legislature is trying to overturn that decision.
 
While the amendment is being explained as an effort to take away Medicaid funding for abortion, WV FREE and other women’s health advocates point out that the bill’s very short text makes it clear that the bill’s aim is even broader. Crafters of the resolution have said they hope that Roe v. Wade will eventually be overturned and that the state constitution will then enable antiquated language to criminalize abortion altogether.
 
To make matters worse, WV legislators rejected a motion to add to the constitutional amendment exceptions for rape, incest or where the woman’s life is at risk. At the same time, Republicans in the state legislature are pushing a bill that would ban nearly all Medicaid-funded abortions in the state, with no exceptions for rape or incest (only an exception to save the life of the pregnant woman). HB4012 is still making its way through House.
 
WV Free will continue to do outreach and education around the state to encourage West Virginians to oppose this harmful measure that would not only take away Medicaid coverage of abortion for low-income women, but could pave the way to criminalizing abortion. WV FREE’s Executive Director Margaret Chapman Pomponio, shown speaking at Saturday’s rallysaid of the amendment: “The legislature abandoned women and families by passing SJR12... WV Free has already snapped into action to defeat this nasty amendment at the ballot box in November. This amendment is extreme to the core to say the least and it’s a bridge too far. It is out of step with what West Virginians want.”
 
A January Hart Research Poll revealed that two-thirds of West Virginia state residents do not support legislation to ban Medicaid-funded abortions. And 62 percent said they do not believe that government should have a say in abortion decisions. Instead, West Virginians want good jobs and healthy families - not politically motivated attacks on health care.
 
Had a life change? You may be able to sign up for health insurance!
 
If you recently experienced a life change, you may be able to sign up for health insurance at HealthCare.gov by qualifying for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). A Special Enrollment Period is a time, other than during annual Open Enrollment, when you can sign up for health insurance. If you qualify for an SEP, you have to act fast! You only get 60 days after a life change to enroll in a health plan.
 
Which life changes qualify?  Some of the most common qualifying life changes include:
  • Losing your health insurance, such as through a layoff.
  • Moving to a new zip code or county.
  • Getting married or divorced.
  • Having a baby, adopting or becoming a foster parent.
  • Having a change in immigration status.
  • Turning 26 and aging off your parents’ health insurance.
Survivors of domestic violence can also qualify for an SEP and apply for their own health plans. Survivors can qualify whether or not they are married. Additionally, a survivor’s dependents can also be added to a new health plan.

Survivors who want to apply for their own health plan should call HealthCare.gov at 1-800-318-2596. Those who qualify will then have 60 days to enroll in a Marketplace plan.

Help us spread the word!  Because there is only a 60-day window to apply for health insurance after a life change, it is important that people know about SEPs.  Raising Women’s Voices is especially concerned about reaching groups of people with the highest remaining uninsured rates: African-Americans, Latinx people, LGBTQ people and immigrants. We have produced a set of new Special Enrollment Period badges like the ones shown here. These badges will be shared online by our RWV regional coordinators around the country and by national partner groups such as Out2Enroll and Unidos US.  Please help us share them! You can find all of our SEP badges, as well as suggested posting text and other great resources (like flyers and fact sheets), on a Google Drive created by Community Catalyst. You can also share these badges by going to Raising Women’s Voices’ Facebook and Twitter page.

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