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    Mass. House approves bill that ensures free birth control

    A one-month dosage of hormonal birth control pills.
    Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli, File
    A one-month dosage of hormonal birth control pills.

    House lawmakers Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ensure access to free birth control in the state and shield state residents from changes to federal law regarding contraceptive coverage requirements.

    The bill is headed to the Senate after the 138-16 vote.

    The measure includes a provision requiring health insurers to continue offering coverage — without co-payments — for prescription contraceptives regardless of changes in federal policy or any future repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act.

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    The legislation brings Massachusetts a step closer to becoming the first state in the nation to pass a law that “protects and expands access to contraception after the Trump administration’s interference with contraceptive coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, in a statement.

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    “We applaud the House’s leadership on this critical issue,” she said. “We urge the Senate to take up legislation as soon as possible.”

    Supporters of the bill anticipate the state Senate swiftly passing the proposal. Johanna Kaiser, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, said the bill has 29 state Senate co-sponsors.

    In a statement, Lizzy Guyton, a spokeswoman for Governor Charlie Baker, said the administration “fully supports access to women’s health and family planning services, is prepared to protect access to those services, and will carefully review any final legislation that reaches the governor’s desk.”

    The decision comes about a month after the Trump administration issued a rule that undermines a federal contraception coverage mandate. That new regulation could mean many women would no longer have access to free birth control.

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    State law has long required insurers to provide birth control coverage, but not without copayments. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, five years ago required private insurers to provide free contraception.

    The bill passed by state legislators would build on the federal protections and also remove existing barriers to care and improve access to contraception for women in the state, according to a statement from Planned Parenthood.

    “Today, the Massachusetts House of Representatives made clear that birth control access is not up for debate in Massachusetts,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts.

    Material from the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and Globe staff reporter Stephanie Ebbert was used in this article. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.