A bill allowing all female veterans enrolled in Veterans Affairs health care to receive free birth-control medications without a copayment has passed the House of Representatives.
The Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act, H.R. 239, passed the lower chamber of Congress June 24 on a largely party-line vote, 245-181. A total of 219 Democrats voted for the measure, and all but 26 Republicans declined to vote on the legislation.
If signed into law, the bill would lift the requirement for some female veterans -- those who don't have a disability rating of 50% or higher or meet certain income limits -- that they make copayments for their birth control prescriptions.
The legislation would align VA benefits with provisions provided to insured Americans under the Affordable Care Act, prohibiting VA from charging any copayments for contraceptive drugs or medical procedures.
Bill sponsor Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) called the bill "a simple one."
"It only addresses the disparity between veterans who must pay for contraception and civilians and women currently serving in uniform who do not have to pay for contraception," she said in a release.
In a statement supporting the bill, the White House said that the administration "strongly supports providing our Veterans with access to contraception as it is a crucial element of preventative healthcare."
The bill now will move to the Senate, where it may face an uphill battle amid some Republicans who oppose the use of tax dollars to provide contraceptive drugs to women.
The main sticking point amid Republicans seems to be the fact that the Affordable Care Act requires insurance providers to make emergency contraception products like the "Plan B" or "morning after" pills available to veterans at government expense, which, they say, is tantamount to the government paying for abortions.
Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and others have said that Plan B, which works by preventing fertilization or, controversially, by ensuring that a fertilized egg does not attach to the walls of the uterus, is tantamount to an abortion.
"[The] Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act is not contraception, it's providing with taxpayer dollars the ability for women to have an abortion," Greene said.
The most recent estimates from the VA indicate that the more than 180,600 female veterans of childbearing age enrolled in VA health care would be eligible for the expanded benefit.
-- Patricia Kime contributed to this report.
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