Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with several media outlets in an effort to tell the stories of women who would be helped by comprehensive reproductive healthcare, particularly affordable access to contraception through insurance. While this experience has been emotionally and physically exhausting, I have been repeatedly moved by the hundreds of women and men who have contacted me to show support. Lest we forget where this conversation started, I would like to take this opportunity to take a step back to exactly two years ago and acknowledge the tremendous difference that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is making and will continue to make in women's lives everywhere.
This law, also known as health reform, will benefit over 45 million women in our country through increased access to preventive care services without copays and deductibles. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act's new requirements that private insurance and Medicare cover these services without cost-sharing, by the time the law is fully implemented in 2014, women will benefit from, among other services: mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, pre and post natal care, flu shots, regular well-baby, well-child and well-woman visits, domestic violence screening, and the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives.
If this seems too good to be true, think again. This is the product of women in action - this is what happens when women stand up for what they and their families need to be healthy and are finally heard by people at the highest ranks of our government. This is what it looks like when government works for us and prioritizes our health.
And just as we will not be silenced when we are verbally attacked for speaking out, we will not go back to a society without this care. My colleagues and friends at my university who struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, unintended pregnancy, and even the terrible consequences of sexual assault understand what it's like for someone else to make their health care decisions for them. New moms who need to space their children, young women who are starting their careers, and low income women who struggle to afford basic necessities understand the need to control their reproduction. I have tried to represent them by talking about their experiences - but any influence I might have is only due to their courage in coming forward.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that courage is reaping as yet untold benefits. I look forward to the day when students at my university finally have the comprehensive reproductive health coverage they need to stay healthy. I look forward to never again hearing about a friend who lost her ovary to a tennis ball-sized cyst because she couldn't afford to keep paying for contraception out of pocket. I look forward to the unintended pregnancy rate in our country, which is stuck at half of all pregnancies, finally declining. I look forward to more women surviving breast and cervical cancer because they were diagnosed early. I look forward to the end of gender rating in insurance, which can inflate premiums for young women by 150% compared to their male counterparts, and which costs women of all ages an extra $1 billion per year. And I look forward to knowing that when my friends choose to start their families, they will not be faced with the 87% of individual insurance plans that do not currently cover maternity care, and they will not be labeled as having a "preexisting condition" if it turns out they need a C-section.
I know that when women have the opportunity, they will take care of their health, which in the end benefits both our families and our country. On this second anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, I express my gratitude and celebrate the new opportunity for healthy lives, before, during and after our reproductive years.
Sandra Fluke is a third-year law student at Georgetown University Law Center and has served as President of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice.