MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage.
Shumlin, a third-term Democrat who is not seeking re-election, signed H.620, on the steps of the State House Monday with lawmakers and representatives of Planned Parenthood looking on. He said the legislation moves Vermont in the right direction while some parts of the country are heading backward.
“When we look around us here in 2016, here in America, and we look at the issue of reproductive rights and women’s health, it’s pretty darn shocking to this governor of Vermont when I see what’s going on with the rest of the country,” the governor said. “We have the presumptive [presidential] nominee of the Republican Party who has literally suggested that women should be punished should they seek an abortion. We have legislatures, like last week in Oklahoma, that passed a bill that literally says that any physician who performs an abortion should not only be stripped of their medical license but be sent to jail.”
Shumlin noted that Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the bill, bus said she only did so “because she thought that she might have to pay legal costs if she lost and they needed a president who would help them implement that on a national level.”
“It’s a disheartening time for women all across America and it’s a disheartening time for men with a heart who care as deeply about reproductive rights,” the governor said.
The law builds on requirements contained in the federal Affordable Care Act. It requires health insurance companies to provide contraceptives approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration to all insured people without co-pays or deductibles. It also makes Vermont the first state to require insurance companies to provide vasectomies for men at no additional cost above their premiums.
Shumlin said requiring insurance companies to cover vasectomies will it easier “for men to be involved in important birth control decisions.”
Additionally, the law will allow women to obtain a year-long supply of hormonal birth control from one visit to their physician and allows women who become pregnant to immediately sign up for health insurance rather than waiting for an open enrollment period or the birth of the child.
“I want to encourage us to do more bills across America like the one that’s being sent to me by the Legislature today,” Shumlin said. “At a time when our country is headed in the wrong direction, I’m proud to say Vermont continues to head in the right direction.”
Meagan Gallagher, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, hailed the legislation Monday as the “most comprehensive birth control access bill in the country.”
“As Vermont’s leading women’s health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood knows the transformative effect birth control has on women’s lives. Our patients and supporters tell us every day as they express their gratitude for the work that we do. The ability to plan, prevent and space pregnancies directly benefits women, men, children and society through increased educational and economic activities for women, healthier babies, more stable families, and as a result, a reduced taxpayer burden,” Gallagher, who attended the signing, said.
According to Gallagher, the number of women in the workforce has tripled since birth control became widely available more than 50 years ago. She said more than six times as many women are now completing four or more years of college.
“Access to birth control is one of the most powerful and empowerment and anti-poverty initiatives we have, and yet, in Vermont, women still face barriers to birth control. Currently, one in two births in Vermont are not planned and low-income women are disproportionally impacted by unplanned pregnancy,” she said.
Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith, a candidate for lieutenant governor, said it is “actually a little sad that we have to be here today when you see what is happening around this country.”
“Forty, 50 years after contraceptives was made widely available in this country, the fact that there are restrictions happening is unfathomable to me. As the father of a young daughter who is 11 years old, I want her to have the opportunity to make her own choices about her reproductive rights,” Smith said. “This is about making sure that women of the next generation and this generation have the opportunity to control their own bodies.”
The law is scheduled to take effect on July 1.