Maryland's GOP Governor Champions Innovative Birth Control Law
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), center, at a bill signing ceremony this year. (Patrick Semansky/AP)Credit: AP
May 11, 2016

As a rule, any law that allows for affordable birth control is viewed by Republicans as an affront to the sanctity of life. So when a Republican acts like a responsible lawmaker who serves even the poorest of constituents, we must applaud. The cycle of poverty is perpetuated by unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, and for once, a Republican is doing something to help.

Maryland's Governor, Larry Hogan (R) deserves mad props for signing into law a bill that helps lower income men AND women afford birth control. Hogan and a few of his fellow Republicans actually believe that contraception is much less costly to society than unwanted children. Of course, once the insurance companies saw the light, their politicians did too, naturally.

Maryland's law actually goes further than the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

Under the Contraceptive Equity Act, Maryland will be the first state to require insurance companies to cover over-the-counter emergency contraceptives, such so called morning-after pills, at no cost. Maryland also will be the first state prohibiting out-of-pocket costs for men who have vasectomies.

Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to sign the bill into law Tuesday, along with nearly 200 other bills that lawmakers passed this year.

The law won't go into effect until Jan. 1, 2018 — timing that will allow insurers to prepare for the 2017 open-enrollment season — and will apply only to insurance companies regulated by the state of Maryland. Some insurance plans that Marylanders have will not be covered, such as those that are issued from other states.

The law is, of course, met with GOP resistance, as predicted. 'Pro-life' groups (only for fetuses, mind you) are very incensed with Gov. Hogan over his decision to actually save more lives from the misery of poverty, neglect and abuse. Initially, insurance companies objected to the up-front costs of funding several months of contraception, but obviously the cost benefits in the long term are tangible. Having a baby in the hospital, without any complications, will cost a minimum of $7,000. Any pre or post-natal medical issues can astronomically skyrocket the costs.

Oddly, those who label themselves conservatives haven't the slightest idea how to be more parsimonious or fiscally responsible with the dreaded welfare assistance they seem to abhor. They will pretend to be anti-abortion to motivate their base to vote. Once those often unwanted infants are born, these right-to-lifers, aka pro-forced birthers, are the first to cut funding and assistance for those very lives they fought so hard to bring into this world. Of course, those are the same people who profess their devout Christianity the loudest.

The Contraceptive Equity Act was the brainchild of Democrats, not surprisingly.

The act was designated as one of the top-priority bills by the Democratic leaders, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. Half of the state's lawmakers co-sponsored the bill.

What's so awesome about this bill is that it is not gender discriminatory, and helps men who want to take the initiative and prevent costly, unwanted pregnancies, not just women.

Advocates who pushed the bill through the General Assembly say Maryland is the first state to pass such a comprehensive approach.

"Maryland is on the forefront across the board with this act," said Karen Nelson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

Other provisions prohibit co-payments for any type of contraceptive and also ban pre-authorization requirements for long-acting contraceptives such as IUDs. The law allows women to receive six months' worth of birth control pills at one time. (Which alleviates the inconvenience and cost of going to a doctor much more frequently).

When so many states and so many pockets of the country are trying to take away reproductive health care and take away rights of women, Maryland is saying, 'We are going to provide more health care coverage and more access to birth control.' Proponents hope the long-term savings of preventing unwanted pregnancies will more than offset the short-term expenses.

This progressive measure will actually help families escape the cycle of poverty, contrary to GOP-sponsored, Draconian, prohibitive and downright cruel anti-abortion laws. Good job, Governor Hogan. Hopefully, this bipartisan bill wasn't passed merely for political expediency, but rather for the greater good, and health of the citizens who are supposed to be served by government. Either way, it's a win win for progress!

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