Research has proven that there are direct benefits to women when they have access to comprehensive preventive health care, including birth control: Studies have shown a link to declines in maternal and infant mortality, reduced risk of ovarian cancer, better overall health outcomes for women, and far fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions—which is a goal we all should share.
Now low-cost, quality reproductive health services are no longer reserved just for women who can afford it or for those who live in urban areas where there may be more options available, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The law requires all new private insurance plans to cover a wide range of reproductive health and preventive services at little or no cost to you.
When I was working in the Senate to help make this law a reality, I fought hard for the inclusion of this provision to benefit all women, but not just because I thought it was the right thing to do. Improving access to birth control is good health policy and good economic policy for all Americans. In fact, the independent, nonprofit Institute of Medicine recommended its inclusion in the law because they believe it is essential to the health of women and families. And a research letter published last month by theJournal of the American Medical Association shows that most American people agree: Nearly 7 in 10 Americans believe health plans should require coverage for women's contraception.
Unfortunately, we've seen attempt after attempt to eliminate a woman's ability to make these types of personal decisions about her own care. In fact, at the end of this month, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases brought by CEOs who want to interfere with a women's health care and take away their employees' right to coverage for birth control.
What's at stake in these cases is whether a CEO's personal beliefs can trump a woman's right to access free or low-cost contraception under the Affordable Care Act. I strongly believe every American deserves to have access to high quality health care coverage, regardless of where they work, and in January I led eighteen of my Senate colleagues in filing an amicus brief with the court reiterating this idea.
The availability of quality, affordable reproductive services not only empowers women across the country; it has been accepted by a majority of Americans. During this week, as we celebrate what it means to be a healthy woman, I encourage you, the readers of Women's Health, to educate and empower yourself on the facts of these cases that could dictate how a CEO could potentially interfere with your health. Access to contraception isn't just a winner for women, it benefits men, our families, and our health care system overall.
Senator Patty Murray, Washington state's senior Senator, was elected in 1992 and has been a member of the Senate Democratic leadership since 2007. As well as being the first female senator from her state, she served as the first female Chair of the Senate Veteran's Affairs Committee and currently serves as the first female Chair of the Senate Budget Committee. She has established herself as an effective leader on healthcare, women, education, transportation, budget issues, and veteran's issues.