The beginning of every legislative session brings the opportunity for our government to make the lives of Minnesotans better. When it comes to changing the lives of women and their families for the better, this session is no different. The Minnesota Legislature should lead the country by example in three areas that directly affect women and their families.
First, whether it’s a newborn child or an adopted child, parents should be able to provide constant attention to their new child for the first six weeks. This is a basic family value that Minnesota parents share, because we should never have to choose between a paycheck and our new child. And with a $900 million budget surplus in our state, we can afford to make the right choice for Minnesota’s families. Legislation that would allow state employees this right has already been proposed by the governor and Minnesotans and their elected officials should support it.
Second, Minnesota must assure that affordable and medically appropriate contraception is available for all women. Currently, there is legislation before the Minnesota House of Representatives that would require all health plans to provide a 12-month supply of covered prescription contraceptives. A study by the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who get a yearly supply of oral contraceptives are less likely to run out of pills and less likely to get pregnant. We can trust women to make decisions about when to plan their families.
Last session, Rep. Erin Murphy introduced the Contraceptive Health Equity and Employee Rights Act. This legislation will allow women to make their own health-care decisions about their contraceptive choices, without interference from their bosses. With the Supreme Court set to rule again on whether employers can deny birth control coverage to employees, it is important for Minnesota to join the 28 other states that require insurance coverage for the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices.
Finally, we must protect a woman’s access to a safe and legal abortion. Just last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt regarding Texas legislation that has resulted in half of that state’s abortion clinics shutting down. That same type of legislation is pending in the Minnesota Legislature and it would force Minnesota abortion clinics to meet costly and medically unnecessary building requirements. A second piece of legislation seeks to prevent women from accessing abortion based on what kind of insurance they have. At least 100,000 women have attempted self-induced abortion since the restrictive clinic requirements passed in Texas. We can’t let it happen here. It’s time to put an end to any legislation that only serves to limit a woman’s right to reproductive freedom.
During this legislative session, we call on our elected officials to listen to the seven in 10 voters who support reproductive freedom. Let’s hope that they will work hard to ensure that the lives of Minnesota’s women and families are made better by their work.
Andrea Ledger is the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota.
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