Posted: March 27, 2014 | Front Page, Senator Cain, Senator Craven, Senator Jackson, Senator Vitelli

Measure provides critical health care to low-income women, saves state millions

AUGUSTA—In a 24-10 vote, the Senate gave initial approval to a bill to increase access to essential healthcare services for low-income women.

“A vote against this bill is a vote against every woman in Maine,” said Senator Margaret Craven of Lewiston, the Senate Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “This bill ensures low-income women have access to crucial healthcare, including family planning. When women can plan the size and timing of their families, they and their families are healthier and more successful.”

The measure ensures low-income women have access to critical preventive healthcare services, including cancer screenings, birth control, pap tests, STI testing, and annual exams.

“It concerns me that there are so many people in government intent on getting involved in our healthcare decisions,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “Birth control and family planning are healthcare decisions made between doctors and patients, not government. ”

Since the Nixon administration, the federal government has matched every $1 states spend on family planning services with $9 of federal funding.

“Increasing access to affordable family planning services isn’t just about women’s health. It’s about the economic security of Maine families and communities,” said Senator Emily Cain of Orono. “When women have choices, they can plan effectively for their future and improve their economic standing and the economic security of their families.”

The bill does not cover abortion, but does cover birth control to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, two-thirds of unintended pregnancies are covered by MaineCare, and about one-third of unintended pregnancies in Maine result in abortion.

“Accepting this bill should be a no brainer. Women’s health should not be put at risk especially when we don’t have to,” said Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic. “Passing this bill will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, keep women and families healthier, and save money. This is a win-win-win.”

The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review estimates the measure would save between $1.9 million to $3.3 million annually.

The bill, LD 1247, “An Act to Expand Coverage of Family Planning Services,” is sponsored by Rep. Jane Pringle; it faces further votes in the House.