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Washington, DC – Last week, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and other anti-women’s health members in the House again pushed their ideological agenda against birth control and women’s health care.

During a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing, Pitts made clear his opposition to the recent decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that ensures health plans will cover preventive care, including birth control with no co-pays.  In pushing to overturn this preventive care provision, Rep. Pitts ignores the fact that millions of women and families will benefit from improved access to affordable birth control. 

The current women’s preventive provision already includes an unfair refusal clause that exempts certain religious employers from offering this essential coverage to their employees. Yet as we are seeing in anti-choice initiatives across the country, conservatives are stepping up their attacks against birth control. Mississippi’s personhood amendment is a strong example of the extreme measures that opponents of women’s health are willing to take to erode women’s access to essential health care.

In response to the hearing, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-05) said, “My constituents tell me all the time that we should be focused on jobs rather than an ideologically driven agenda. Instead, some members of the Energy and Commerce Committee are spending their time trying to stop a rule that makes preventative care more affordable.  This effort is a waste of time and is a complete distraction from the real problems our country faces.”

Dr. Mark Hathaway, director of ob/gyn outreach services for Women's and Infants' Services at the Washington Hospital Center, testified in support of covering birth control, saying, “I see every day how increasing women’s ability to plan their pregnancies makes a difference in their lives.  And by the same token, I also see the negative consequences of unintended and unplanned pregnancy, late prenatal care, uncontrolled medical problems, poor nutrition, and sometimes depression.”

“At each of our seven health centers, we provide essential preventive health care services to women from all walks of life.  Many of these women struggle to pay for their services or high deductibles, making it imperative that we preserve HHS’s decision to ensure that health plans cover birth control with no co-pays,” said Dianne Luby, President of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM).  “Taking away this new, historic protection is a direct assault on women’s health and our patients’ ability to prevent unintended pregnancies.  That’s bad public health policy. That’s bad economic policy.” 

It’s important to highlight that birth control use is nearly universal in the United States:  99 percent of sexually experienced women have used birth control at some point in their lives, including 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholic women. And numerous studies including recommendations by the respected Institute of Medicine demonstrate that birth control usage improves maternal and infant health.

Seventy-one percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters and 72 percent of Republican women, support health plans covering birth control without co-pays.

Unfortunately, anti-women’s health members of Congress are not listening to their constituents and have been quick to attack the preventive care provision and take this groundbreaking benefit away.


Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts is the largest freestanding reproductive health care provider in the state. For over 80 years PPLM has protected and promoted sexual and reproductive health and freedom of choice through clinical services, education and advocacy.  For more information, visit www.pplm.org.


Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts


Tricia Wajda
Director of Public Affairs
(617) 515-0531


November 08, 2011