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The New York Times, March 14, 2009

Editorial: Progress on Family Planning

Tucked into the big spending bill just signed by President Obama is a welcome provision designed to make affordable birth control available to millions of women across the country.

The provision is not a subsidy and will impose no burden on taxpayers. It will restore a limited exemption from Medicaid pricing rules that was in effect for nearly 20 years. It allowed pharmaceutical companies to supply contraceptives to college health clinics, all Planned Parenthood offices and other family-planning centers at an extreme discount that could be passed on to patients.

A technical drafting error in the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act eliminated the price break, and, until now, efforts to correct the mistake went nowhere, owing to Republican opposition.

Washington’s dawdling in making the simple fix has had a stark effect, driving up the price of brand-name contraceptives on some college campuses from about $5 per month to $40 or even $50 a month.

The language in the spending bill will advance at least two important goals, notes Representative Joseph Crowley, a Democrat from New York who played a major role in securing the reform. It will reduce a big financial burden on college-age and low-income women while helping to drive down the number of unplanned pregnancies.

This victory for common sense follows a string of positive steps already taken by President Obama to dismantle his predecessor’s assault on women’s reproductive health and freedom. For example, since taking office the president has lifted the odious gag rule that former President George W. Bush imposed on international family-planning groups and moved to rescind an 11th-hour Bush regulation aimed at hindering women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and the information necessary to make decisions about their own health.

There is much more to be done, but the shift in momentum is refreshing.

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