A new bill introduced would expand access to contraceptives in Pennsylvania after a 2020 decision by the US Supreme Court allowed employers to opt out of covering it.
During a three-year relationship rife with domestic violence, Alexandra Smith’s abuser would often “sabotage” her access to birth control.
And when the man raped the 28-year-old from Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, he impregnated her.
“Thanks to Planned Parenthood, I was able to break a sinister cycle,” Smith said. “I am alive and recovering beautifully without the dangerous attachment of a child fathered by my rapist. I am alive because my reproductive rights were protected.”
Smith’s story was just one of a few highlighted during a recent news conference where Rep. Leanne Krueger (D-Delaware County) introduced House Bill 2454, legislation that would expand access to birth control in the commonwealth. The bill would require insurers in Pennsylvania to provide coverage for contraception.
During the summer of 2020, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that allowed employers to be exempt from Affordable Care Act mandates to provide birth control to employees if they objected on religious or moral grounds. The ruling, Krueger said, endangers the health and security of at least 2.5 million women in Pennsylvania.
“Contraception is health care, and employers should not be allowed to decide what medical care a woman has the right to receive,” Krueger said. “Access to health care is inextricably linked to economic mobility, and basic preventative care like birth control should not be a luxury that is only available to some.”
Birth control is not only for prevention of pregnancy; it is frequently used to treat serious medical conditions.
Stephanie Lane uses birth control to get relief from painful ovarian cysts.. The 43-year old mother of four from Enola, Cumberland County, has suffered from ovarian cysts since she was 11. Her parents would not let her use birth control, which prevents the cysts from occurring, because they were worried she would become sexually active.
“I only wanted pain relief,” Lane said.
When she was 18 and she went to college, Lane was within walking distance of a Planned Parenthood.
“As a college student, I did not have much money but I was able to access affordable birth control,” she said. “I was young and in pain and had no one to talk to. Planned Parenthood was a lifesaver.”
Birth control is essential medication, said Lindsey Mauldin, vice president for Advocacy and Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“We support expanding access to reproductive health care so every person, regardless of race, income level, insurance status or where they live has the ability to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures,” Mauldin said.
Last year, for the first time, Smith had a long-term contraceptive device implanted in her arm. Now, she said, she can decide when and if she wants to have a baby.
“I finally felt safe existing in my own body,” Smith said.
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