CHARLOTTE-- After a hard fought political battle, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the newest requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
Starting Aug. 1, 47 million women now have access to a number of preventative healthcare benefits for free. They include mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, prenatal care, STD testing, contraception, and domestic violence counseling.
"Their level of coverage will be equivalent of that to men and that's a huge step for women's equality regardless of how you feel about all the politics," said Hytham Imseis, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Presbyterian Hospital.
He says this move is long overdue, and could mean the difference of life and death for many women.
"Having people covered for basic services like pap smears and mammograms drastically reduces the risk of mortality in advanced stage cancers," said Imseis.
While the Supreme Court upheld most of the law in June, it is still a controversial issue, especially with some in the Catholic Church.
"I don't have to check my religious freedom at the door when I open a business,"said Robert Gallagher, the CEO of Goodwill Publishers. His company publishes bibles and other religious books.
While certain religious organizations and churches are exempt from paying their insurers to cover contraception, he says his for-profit business is not.
"The federal government can tell us that we must provide coverage that we determine to be immoral,” he said. “What can they do next?”
The coverage is immediately available to women enrolling in new health care plans. If you are already covered, it starts when you renew your policy.
Republicans are currently working to repeal the health care law.