The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Aug. 1 new guidelines requiring private health insurance plans to cover several women’s preventive services, including birth control and voluntary sterilization, reported CNN. Beginning on August 2012, birth control will be considered a preventive health measure under the Affordable Care Act’s list of services that must be covered by health insurers. Also included on the list of preventative services are free screenings for gestational diabetes and the human papillomavirus (HPV), breastfeeding support and counseling on sexually transmitted diseases. The full list is available on the Department of Health and Human Services Web site.
Women’s rights advocates were quick to cheer. "Too many times, I have seen women who became pregnant when they didn’t want to because their insurance failed them–by limiting them to contraceptives that weren’t right for them or refusing to pay for any form of birth control," Nancy Stanwood of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health said in a press release.
"Here’s the bottom line: Contraception is prevention. Preventive care is supposed to be covered by insurance companies without co-pays under health care reform. Contraception saves money. It saves lives. We are glad the administration knows this is true," said Kierra Johnson of Choice USA in an Aug. 1 statement.
Read our most recent article on the issue, "Birth-Control Roadblock Just Might Clear in 2014."
More News to Cheer This Week:
- The Suquamish Tribal Council in Washington state formally changed its ordinance to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, reported the Kitsap Sun Aug. 1. Same-sex couples will be afforded all the rights heterosexual couples have on the reservation.
- Church officials and birth control proponents are at odds regarding new legislation that could prevent pharmacy employees from denying the sale of contraceptives because of their religious beliefs, reported The North Jersey News. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced the Access to Birth Control Act on Aug. 2 in response to a report from the Institute of Medicine that recommended birth control be considered a preventive health measure and made available without co-payment.
- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., appeared for the first time on the House of Representatives floor since she sustained a gunshot to her head during an assassination attempt in January. She voted in favor of the bill that would raise the debt limit for the United States, reported The New York Times Aug. 2. Her appearance temporarily muted the sense of bipartisan rivalry that has emanated from Washington since the debt ceiling negotiations kicked in to high gear earlier in the summer.
- U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten has blocked a new Kansas law that would strip federal funding for family planning from the state’s Planned Parenthood chapter, reported The Huffington Post Aug. 1.
- San Francisco officials began a two-pronged attack on "crisis pregnancy centers," which are billed as places for pregnant women to get advice, but often use counseling to discourage abortions, reported The New York Times Aug. 2. In the U.K., a survey of 10 centers operated by Christian and anti-abortion organizations found evidence of poor practice and factually incorrect advice, while the quality of counseling differed widely, reported The Guardian Aug. 2.
The Economics and Statistics Administration released a report Aug. 3 looking at the gender gap in career fields involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Titled "Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation," it found that women are underrepresented both in STEM jobs and STEM undergraduate degrees and have been consistently underrepresented over the last decade.
Women who do receive STEM degrees are less likely to work in STEM jobs than their male counterparts. It also found that while women working in STEM jobs earn less than their male counterparts, they experience a smaller gender wage gap compared to others in non-STEM occupations. Read the full report here.
However, the National Science Foundation says the amount of women engaging in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics has grown since the 1970s, reported Metro News New York July 31. Nearly 232,000 women were enrolled as graduate students in science and engineering in 2008, compared with fewer than 78,000 enrolled in 1977.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- Duquesne University in Pittsburgh is suing Highmark Inc., an insurance provider, for incorrectly paying reimbursements for birth control and other procedures and medications that violate the school’s Catholic mission, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Aug. 3.
- LGBT rights organizations are lashing out at Italy’s parliament’s decision to reject a bill calling for stiffer sentences for perpetrators of hate crimes against homosexuals and transsexuals, reported The Associated Press Aug. 2. The parliament’s lower house, dominated by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservatives, rejected the bill on July 26.
- Dozens of women and children in Israel may face eviction as seven battered women’s shelters may be forced to close, reported Ynetnews Aug. 2.
- Women are drastically more likely to develop a mental disorder at some point in their lives if they have been the victim of rape, sexual assault, stalking or intimate-partner violence, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported The Huffington Post Aug. 3. In Australia, researchers from the University of Melbourne and the University of NSW, in New South Wales, found a high proportion of abused women suffered from alarmingly high rates of mental illness– up to three times higher than the general population– reported ABC Online Aug. 3.
- Thai lawmakers elected U.S.-educated businesswoman Yingluck Shinawatra as the country’s first female prime minister on Aug. 5, reported the Associated Press.
- An Italian parliamentary commission passed a draft law banning women from wearing in public garments that cover their faces, including the burka and the niqab, reported The New York Times Aug. 2.
- Three former teachers are suing the Storm King School in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y., claiming the school punished them for trying to help a female student who was allegedly raped and sexually assaulted at an off-campus party, reported the Times Herald-Record, July 30.
- Israeli scientists have developed a test that can determine immediately if a drink has been dosed with two of the most common date rape drugs –GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) and ketamine–reported The New York Daily News Aug. 3.
- Scientists have found that children born to women with the highest levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields– including from microwaves, hair dryers and power lines — had a more than three-fold higher rate of asthma compared to those whose moms had the lowest exposure, reported TIME Magazine Aug. 2.
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