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Thursday, March 28, 2013
Last week marked the three-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act - a landmark law that is already improving health care access for thousands of Virginians. But let's not forget the special - and embarrassing - significance of this anniversary for Virginians. Within 34 minutes of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law, Virginia's Ken Cuccinelli became the first attorney general in the country to file a lawsuit against this historic achievement.
Three years later, Cuccinelli is still fighting the Affordable Care Act and its provision to offer women access to no co-pay preventive care like birth control. Except now he is campaigning to take that crusade with him to the governor's office. This three-year crusade is downright shameful, and it is out of touch with the needs of women and families. Virginians want their elected officials to focus on fixing the economy and creating jobs - not attacking women and their ability to access basic health care.
Thanks to a landslide election in which women's health was front and center, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and that's what Virginians want. According to 2012 election night exit-polls , Obama won among Virginia women by nine points. The gender gap in Virginia for Obama was 13 points. Despite that, Ken Cuccinelli's relentless attacks on women's health care and birth control continue.
To understand just how out of touch Cuccinelli's attacks on women's health are, consider these basic truths:
According to a recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services, the ACA is already making a significant health and economic difference in the lives of an estimated 765,000 women in Virginia who have access to a wide range of preventive health care services without co-pays for the first time. When the law takes full effect, it is estimated that more than 1.38 million Virginia women will have access to these services, including no co-pay birth control.
Despite all this, Cuccinelli's crusade continues. Earlier this year, he compared his fight against the birth control benefit to the civil rights struggle led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and argued that opponents of no co-pay birth control should be willing to "go to jail" to fight the law. Furthermore, in his book, "The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty," he makes no apologies for his anti-women's health record and agenda and instead attacks laws requiring insurers to cover certain kinds of health care - such as preventive care for women - likening them to forced food purchases. He repeatedly calls the birth control benefit the "sterilization mandate."
What Cuccinelli doesn't understand, or chooses to ignore, is that the Affordable Care Act's birth control benefit will have a measurable financial impact for Virginia women and their families - with more than a third of female voters reporting that they have struggled to afford birth control at some point in their lives, and as a result, used it inconsistently. This isn't surprising considering 99 percent of sexually active American women have used contraception at some point in their lives and co-pays typically range between $15 and $50 per month, up to $600 per year. That's the equivalent of five weeks of groceries for a family of four, nine tanks of gas in a minivan or one semester of college textbooks. That's probably why the birth control benefit has the support of 70 percent of Americans.
Several for-profit companies have even joined Cuccinelli's fight to dictate women's access to birth control. Here's the thing: Nobody is forcing Cuccinelli or these corporate CEOs to take birth control, and they don't have to pay for it, but they can't decide whether women who work for them are able to have birth control like any other prescription. All women, no matter where they live or who their boss is, should have access to basic preventive health care, including birth control. This is a decision for women, not their bosses or politicians like Cuccinelli, to make.
As a leading advocate for women's health care in Virginia, we're committed to doing everything in our power to keep Cuccinelli out of the governor's office. We know that the more Virginia voters learn about Cuccinelli's agenda for their health and economic security, the less likely they are to support him. That's why we'll be taking our message to the streets, to the phones and to the doors in the months leading up to November.
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