In Important Victory For Women, House Adopts Contraceptive Equity Bill

July 16, 1999 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — In what the American Civil Liberties Union hailed as an important victory for women, the House of Representatives today once again adopted a bipartisan measure that would improve federal employee’s access to basic health care and eliminate a startling gender inequity in the coverage of prescription drugs under federal employees’ health insurance plans.

An amendment that would have drastically limited the scope of the legislation was defeated a vote of 217-200. The vote was the second in two years to grant federal employees this important coverage.

Although the Senate version of the appropriations bill also includes the contraceptive coverage measure, the provision may face yet another obstacle.

Last year, as the House and Senate sought to iron out the differences between their versions of the Treasury-Postal appropriations bill, some anti-choice members of Congress unsuccessfully tried to remove the contraceptive equity provision.

“This measure represents an important first step toward correcting the gross inequity between men and women in terms of their out-of-pocket health care,” said Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office.

“It does much more than address a basic issue of fairness,” she added. “It serves significant public health goals as well.”

Murphy said the contraceptive equity act would finally recognize the proven contribution contraception has made to preventing unintended pregnancies, reducing abortion, and improving the health of women and children. Because many women and their families pay out of pocket for contraceptive services and supplies, they may be forced to decide whether or not to use contraception or what method to use on the basis of affordability rather than what is the most medically appropriate and effective method for them.

Opting for less expensive contraceptive methods increases the likelihood of unintended pregnancies since the more effective forms of contraception are generally also the most expensive. Almost one half of all unintended pregnancies end in abortion.

The ACLU has also endorsed a bill to provide equity in contraceptive coverage for all women, which was introduced in June in both the House and Senate.

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