CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Whether you are single and just out of college, a mom or a senior citizen ... whatever your circumstances, you can probably appreciate how important it is to have health insurance. It helps us get timely care that can protect our health and our lives. It enables us to live with peace of mind, knowing that an unexpected health issue won't drive us into serious financial crisis.
Coverage matters when it comes to reproductive health care, such as maternity care or abortion.
This is why our organizations, WV FREE and Planned Parenthood, along with many people and over 20 organizations from across West Virginia, urged our elected officials to pass a new maternity coverage law that ensures every woman who has insurance will have coverage for the health care she may need. We are so thrilled that the Legislature passed this important legislation.
Senate Bill 22 received unanimous support in the Senate and only lost two votes in the House. And now it is headed to the Governor's desk to be signed! This legislation is a win-win for West Virginia. It will save our state money and improve the health of expectant mothers and their babies by helping pregnant women receive critical prenatal care.
Sadly, though, some of our politicians were more interested in using our new state health care exchange and our Medicaid program to restrict abortion coverage and create additional barriers a woman would face when making a personal decision about her health. But we made the case that it's not our place to make decisions about pregnancy for someone else -- and it's certainly not the place of politicians. Only a woman can make personal and often complex decisions about her pregnancy, with the help of her family, her faith and her health-care provider.
Fortunately, our legislature listened.
As organizations that work every day to promote women's health, we are reminded that whether a woman gets her insurance through her job or through state health programs, she should have coverage for a full range of pregnancy-related care, from prenatal care to abortion, so she can make the best decision for her circumstances.
During discussion on this bill and on anti-women's health amendments to the state budget, it was so heartening to hear that our elected officials understand that this kind of last-minute wrangling is unacceptable. A woman's health should never be used as a political football.
When it comes to the most important decisions in life, such as whether to raise a child, end a pregnancy or chose adoption, it is vital that a woman is able to consider all the options available to her, regardless of how much money she has or where she gets her health care coverage.
So, on behalf of our thousands of members, patients and supporters in West Virginia, we say thank you to our elected officials for supporting legislation that promotes women's health rather than takes health care coverage away. Thank you for ensuring that women will not have to base important decisions about their health on where they get their insurance. This will give many families the assurance that if something happens with their health, they will be covered.
This session, the Legislature showed that it can reject the powers of extremism by standing up to a narrow special interest lobby bent on taking West Virginia backward. Instead, the Legislature took a proactive step to move our state forward. And for this, we applaud you!
Pomponio is executive director of WV FREE, and Miskimmin is West Virginia director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Health Systems.