Growing numbers of U.S. states are seeking to ensure that women have continued access to free birth control in case the insurance benefit is dropped as part of President-elect Donald Trump's vow to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The 2010 law, popularly called Obamacare, requires most health insurance plans to provide coverage for birth control without a patient co-payment, which can be as much as $50 per month for birth control pills or $1,000 for long-acting contraceptives such as intrauterine devices.
California, Maryland, Vermont and Illinois since 2014 have enacted statutes codifying the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate in state law and expanding on the federal law's requirements. Democratic lawmakers in New York, Minnesota, Colorado and Massachusetts said they are pursuing similar measures this year, with Obamacare under mortal threat in Washington.
New York's Democratic attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, on Wednesday introduced such a measure in his state's legislature that would expand on the Obamacare contraception mandate.
"Women across New York are very concerned that Republican efforts to repeal the ACA will mean the loss of the contraception on which they rely," Schneiderman said.
"I won't hesitate to act to protect New Yorkers' rights — including the right to choose, and the right to birth control - no matter what a Trump administration does," Schneiderman added, referring to abortion rights.
Trump, who succeeds Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, and his fellow Republicans in Congress have made dismantling Obamacare their "first order of business," as Vice President-elect Mike Pence put it on Jan. 4.
Republicans in Congress have not presented a detailed proposal for repealing and replacing the law but many Republicans and religious conservatives have opposed the Obamacare contraception mandate.
Twenty-eight of the 50 states currently have laws requiring private insurers to provide coverage for birth control. But not all the laws affect all insurance plans, and only a few mandate cost-free birth control.
The Obamacare contraception mandate has applied since 2012 to most new insurance plans including employer-provided coverage.
In 2013, for example, the mandate saved U.S. women more than $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket expenses for birth control pills, according to a report by University of Pennsylvania researchers. Almost 6.9 million privately insured U.S. women used the pill that year.
The legislative move by some states, most of them Democratic governed, is designed to clear up uncertainty for some of the 55 million women who now have access to free contraceptives and related treatments under the Affordable Care Act.
Conservatives also have chipped away at the Obamacare mandate in court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that forcing family-owned businesses to pay for employee insurance coverage for birth control ran afoul of another federal law safeguarding religious freedom.