August 1st was a big day in the history of women’s healthcare.  That’s the day that the women’s preventative healthcare provisions included in Obamacare officially went into effect. Many women and families can rest a little easier, as the new federal regulations finally give women greater access to affordable care.

The specific regulation mandates that insurance companies cover for free (meaning no co-pay) the following: yearly well-woman visits (annual exam), screening for gestational diabetes, testing for the human papilloma virus or HPV (the virus linked to cervical cancer), counseling for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), counseling and screening for HIV, contraceptive methods and counseling (birth control), breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling, and domestic violence support services.

This is a huge victory for women’s health advocates, as some 47 million women can look forward to saving thousands of dollars that were previously spent of co-pays for doctor’s visits for essential health services.

Republicans are in full panic-mode, likening the contraception mandate to the attack on Pearl Harbor and 9/11. However, greater access to contraception and preventative care is viewed as necessary among a substantial majority of American women across political parties. The White House is taking a well-earned victory lap and the Obama campaign launched a new website highlighting all of the benefits of the new law, including a chart contrasting Mitt Romney’s policies should he be elected.

It should be noted that 244 Republican Representatives voted to repeal Obamacare, which would have taken these benefits away from the women who need them. State legislatures in 11 states usually lead by Republicans have pushed through ballot initiatives to curtail the benefits of the new Obamacare regulation and undermine access to contraception coverage.

Affordable access to preventative health care services is a big deal for many women who in the past may have chosen one form of birth control over another (or chose to go without it completely) because of the monthly cost.  The average co-pay for the birth control pill is as high as $600 dollars a year, which is needed for grocery or bill money for many women.  By mandating that insurance companies cover contraception as part of health insurance plans at no additional cost, women are now given more independence and control over their own family planning choices. Reproductive health is often reduced to merely an economic issue and the contraception mandate will give women and families increased economic security; some 32% of women report giving up basic necessities to pay for healthcare expenses, while 52% of women delay needed medical care because of the cost.

The new regulation that went into effect August 1st is a major win for American women and families who will certainly be happy to have the extra cash on hand on a monthly and annual basis.