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Senate Dems pledge health fight against "Mad Men era," push for Medicaid to cover birth control

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (R) (D-CA) reaches to embrace Sen. Patty Murray (L) (D-WA) after speaking at a press conference advocating women's health rights January 21, 2015 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.

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Senate Democrats are introducing a bill that would expand Medicaid coverage to include contraception for lower income women, along with strengthening other reproductive health initiatives.

"As we continue to fight back against those who miss the Mad Men era, the 21st Century Women's Health Act lays out important ways we can and should move forward on women's health," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said on a conference call with reporters Thursday.

In an effort led by the Washington lawmaker, the proposal, titled the 21st Century Women's Health Act, would require Medicaid dollars to pay for FDA-approved contraception methods. According to the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate health committee, the act would put more women "in the driver's seat about their own health care."

The legislation, which would also provide emergency contraception for rape survivors and supplement nurse practitioner programs with women's health training, has two other co-sponsors, Democratic Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Barbara Boxer. The bill also proposes a study of abortion access conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. The comprehensive survey would examine the effect of state laws that cap the availability of family planning services.

The act is only the latest push by democrats in Congress to provide women with greater control over reproductive care. Murray's previous attempt to confront family planning issues in the Senate-- with a measure that would have overturned the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling on contraceptives--failed to pass into law last July. And in a GOP-controlled Congress, such pushes for expanded reproductive rights face an uphill battle.

"I do know there are those who are going to say no right off the bat," Murray said of her newest proposal. "That will not stop me."

While the Affordable Care Act already required private health insurance plans to cover birth control, Murray's legislation would ensure coverage for the more than ten percent of American women insured with the social health care program.