Ever since Amy Coney Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, many Americans vocalized their fears that the Catholic conservative’s appointment would overturn historic laws, including Roe v. Wade – the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
Although Coney Barrett has stated she won’t let her pro-life views influence her rulings, many – including a group of local lawmakers – don’t believe her.
On Aug. 21, state Reps. Kevin Boyle, Tina Davis and Leanne Krueger introduced H.B. 2813, which seeks to ensure Pennsylvanians have equitable access to birth control. The bill was penned following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows employers to be exempt from Affordable Care Act mandates to include contraceptives on company healthcare plans if it goes against religious or moral values.
Boyle, Davis and Krueger held a virtual news conference on Oct. 28.
Krueger said, each year, more than 2 million women experience an unintended pregnancy.
While the Affordable Care Act made contraceptive coverage a national policy, Krueger said there were gaps in this coverage. By 2018, 30 states and the District of Columbia adopted laws that required state-regulated insurance plans to cover contraceptives. Pennsylvania is not yet one of them.
On Oct. 5, 2017, the federal government proposed new rules under the ACA, allowing private employers and educational institutions that do not agree with the use of contraceptives to be exempt from the contraceptive requirement.
Krueger explained how contraception is used for more than birth control. For example, she takes it to treat endometriosis.
Davis is pushing for the bill to become law during COVID-19. She said low-income women, especially those of color, have been forced to shoulder frontline jobs to make ends meet. Doing so while pregnant would significantly increase their health risks.
Boyle said he’s “struck by the irony” of religious organizations opposing the bill.
“I think opposing poverty is one of the biggest moral things you can do, and that’s why you should support this bill. All the evidence, all the studies demonstrate that unplanned pregnancies are one of the biggest drivers of poverty not just for women, but for men,” he explained. “Without access to birth control, you will only increase the poverty rate in America.”
He cited health as another reason to support H.B. 2813, and used his grandmother as an example. A devout Catholic who did not believe in birth control, she had 11 children, suffered multiple miscarriages and died fairly young.
“It’s 2020. I think that some of the organizations like the Catholic Church who oppose legislation like this need to wake up to the reality of what their position actually causes for women and families,” Boyle said. “I hope our Republican colleagues see the value in what we’re trying to promote. We always hear about the issue of abortion from them. Without access to birth control, you’ll only have an increased abortion rate.”
When drafting the bill, the legislators worked closely with several advocates, including Women’s Law Project, Planned Parenthood, Access Matters, ACLU and New Voices.
Present during the conference was Signe Espinoza, director of policy at Planned Parenthood.
If no action is taken on H.B. 2813 before the legislative calendar ends Nov. 30, Krueger said it will be introduced early in the next legislative session. ••