Massachusetts just became the first state to protect its residents' access to birth control, regardless of any actions taken by the administration of President Donald Trump.
Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill into law on Monday after it passed with overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. The law requires state insurers to cover birth control without copays, and it allows women to obtain up to a year's supply at once. That means they do not have to make monthly trips to the pharmacy, which can be difficult for women who work or who live in rural areas.
"This legislation will ensure no woman in Massachusetts, irrespective of what goes on in Washington, will worry about whether her health care services and rights will be affected here in the commonwealth," Baker said, according to MassLive.com.
The comment was a clear dig at Trump, whose administration in October rolled back the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate, threatening the well being of the more than 55 million women who had access to copay-free birth control thanks to the provision. Also last month, a leaked memo showed the Trump administration's intentions to replace effective birth control methods with "fertility awareness," a family-planning technique that has been shown to fail 24 percent of the time.
The dangers of limiting women's access to birth control can't be overstated: Studies show increased access to contraception has helped reduce unintended pregnancy, teen birth and abortion rates; it's also been linked to women's wage increases and access to education.
Massachusetts isn't the only state to defend its residents against the Trump administration's actions regarding reproductive rights.
In April, Maryland became the first state to make funding Planned Parenthood a legal mandate, when a bill requiring the state to reimburse clinics for any funds cut by the federal government passed into law without Governor Larry Hogan's signature.
Reproductive rights advocates hope other states take a cue from Maryland and Massachusetts as the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Congress ramp up efforts to dismantle women's reproductive care.
"Every person has a fundamental right to decide whether and when to have children, and Massachusetts is at the forefront of safeguarding those freedoms," Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards said in a statement on Monday. "We need everyone—lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, business leaders, artists, citizens—to follow Massachusetts’ lead and take action."
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