A year ago this week, President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, the greatest advance this country has seen in women's health care in 45 years. And women across this country are speaking out about how this bill will improve the lives of millions of women and girls. Planned Parenthood and other health care providers fought hard to pass this historic reform, which will advance women's health in myriad ways in the decades ahead. But at the tender age of one, these advances are under attack by special interests and by politicians with narrow ideological agendas. To make matters even worse, extremists in Congress are trying to take away valuable, lifesaving health care that millions of women have today.
Despite the current political challenges in defending women's health, the truly good news is that since going into effect, the Affordable Care Act has already improved access to care for women and families. It guarantees coverage of preventive care, including lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings and immunizations without co-pays. It bars insurers from refusing coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and from dropping individuals after they become sick. Additional benefits are on the way. By 2014, the new law will extend affordable coverage to tens of millions of women and families who are currently uninsured. It will also boost access to family planning and birth control for millions of women.
The Affordable Care Act is especially important to women because we are disproportionately and unfairly affected by America's broken health care system. Women are routinely charged higher premiums than men, and are often denied coverage for "pre-existing conditions," such as breast cancer and even pregnancy. This hard-won reform puts an end to those practices.
But some opponents of health care reform are working overtime to put an end to the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this year, extreme House members failed in their efforts to repeal the law. Two lawsuits involving a total of twenty-seven states have been filed to block its full implementation. The fight is not over, and we can expect many more attacks in Congress and the courts.
At the same time, extremists in Congress are working hard to take away health care that women have today. Astoundingly, the new majority in the House pushed through a budget resolution that would literally eliminate the national family planning program. And an amendment to that resolution would bar Planned Parenthood's doctors, nurses, and health centers from receiving federal funds for providing care of any kind to any person. These bills must never pass the Senate or reach the president's desk. The national family planning program provides five million women with family planning, birth control, and lifesaving preventive care, including cancer screenings. Planned Parenthood health centers, which are the foundation of the national family planning program, provide millions more women with the very same kind of care, as well as HIV testing, STI testing and treatment, annual exams, and other important care that women need, deserve, and have been receiving for decades.
These narrow-minded, unpopular, and unproductive attacks on women's health are not the birthday gifts this historic law deserves or the women of this country need, and we must resist these assaults at every step of the way. Planned Parenthood and its supporters have been fighting daily to push back these attacks, and you can join with us at I Stand With Planned Parenthood.
There's a wonderful video, narrated by actor Julianne Moore, which highlights the great benefits of the Affordable Care Act. You can see it here. I encourage you to take the time to watch it and share it widely.
On the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, we have much to celebrate and much to fight for. Here's to celebrating future birthdays of health care reform and future victories for women's health against those who would push us back. May the women of our country and the laws that protect them stay strong in the years to come!
Follow Cecile Richards on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cecilerichards