Trump's birth control order, announced on Friday, is devastating news. Previously, under a mandate from the Affordable Care Act, most employers were required to provide their employees with birth control coverage without copayments. On Friday, Trump rolled back that mandate. Now the Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor will make it easier for employers to refuse to provide coverage for birth control if they have a “religious or moral objection” to doing so. Although the administration claims that this "will not affect over 99.9% of the 165 million in the United States", they do so without any proof or explanation of their reasoning. The reality is that it's terrifying to think about how many women will be left without access to affordable birth control. It's another reminder of this administration's attempts to constantly roll back the basic rights of women.
"Allowing an employer to take away access to insurance coverage for birth control paves the way for gender based discrimination," Melissa Grant, Chief Operations Officer for
carafem Health, tells Bustle. "Pregnancy has significant physical, emotional, and economic repercussions that are best planned for carefully. Access to and affordability of birth control is key to the good health of families and society."
The Obama-era coverage made a massive difference to the lives of many women. Before the Affordable Care Act coverage, 20 percent of women were paying out-of-pocket for birth control— two years later, in 2014, that had
dropped to less than four percent. It changed lives. But now, that progress is being undone. But it's not just about birth control, the effect that these changes will have on women could be huge. Here's what medical experts are worried about.
Denying Access To Birth Control
On its most basic level, this rollback will make birth control harder to access and, for some women, it would put it completely out of reach. Birth control is expensive. Really expensive. Many women prefer the simplicity of
long term birth control, but under Trump's plan, a Mirena coil would cost on average over $1100— and closer to $1500 in places like Alaska. Under the Obama-era mandate, women using the birth control pill saved an average of $255 per year— which would now be a monthly expense not everyone can afford. So for many, this change will mean no access to birth control, at all.
Other Health Problems Will Go Untreated
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, over
62.4 million women have gained guaranteed coverage of preventive services, including birth control. But not everyone is using birth control to prevent pregnancy. Anemia, ovarian cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, and more are prevented or treated with birth control. And now, these may go untreated and hurt patients in a number of ways.
“As the nation’s largest professional organization for women’s health care physicians, ACOG is extremely disappointed that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has chosen to undermine the best interest of patients we care for," Dr. Haywood Brown, the President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a statement shared with Bustle. "This rule will negatively impact the health of women and their families by limiting access to essential preventive care.” It's bad for women's health— period.
The cost of birth control will make it out of reach for some women and, for those lucky enough to afford it, it can be debilitatingly expensive. In the first year of the Affordable Care Act, women saved
an estimated $1.4 billion just on birth control pills. Add in IUDs, implants, and all other forms of birth control and we're talking about a mountainous financial burden that will now be passed on to women. And it's not an expense everyone can take on easily. Planned Parenthood reports that one third of women have had problems affording birth control in the past, which leads to irregular usage.
With finances already being the
main source of stress in the United States, this additional burden will only exacerbate those stress levels. "After all, nearly nine out of 10 women of reproductive age will use birth control at some point in their lives," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president and chief brand and experience officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, wrote in The Hill. It's a basic need for most women— and one that many will now have to find a way to fund.
In a strange move that breaks with precedent, the administration announced that these changes would take place immediately. The administration has claimed that taking a period to get public input would be
“impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest." This move will cause confusion as women have no time to adjust to the change, but it is all the more infuriating when the majority of the population— 68 percent— support birth control being covered. So why is the public not being consulted? “We strongly object to this change being issued without a chance for stakeholders and members of the public to offer their thoughts and recommendations," Dr. Jack Ende, the President of the American College of Physicians, said in a statement shared with Bustle.
Women have a right to chose what to do with their bodies— including prevent pregnancies. This policy tells women that someone else's beliefs are more important than their autonomy. It is disrespectful, it is misogynistic, and it is not OK.
"Young people have the right to lead healthy lives, and planning if and when one wants to become a parent is a crucial part of that," Debra Hauser, president of
Advocates for Youth, tells Bustle . "The rollback is short sighted, creating barriers to birth control access that could endanger their health and futures."
A Disproportionate Effect On Black And Low-Income Women
Removing coverage requirements for birth control will disproportionately affect black and low-income women, many of whom are already struggling to afford birth control. According to The New York Times,
52 percent of African American women aged 18-34 have trouble paying for birth control. With institutions like Planned Parenthood being defunded, it will be even harder for these women to find access birth control.
"We urge the administration, Congress, and other policymakers to work together to develop a remedy that ensures that women are not denied access to no-cost contraception, and more broadly, to ensure that all Americans will have access to coverage for evidence-based medical care," Ende added.
The bottom line: birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies, a lack of birth control will mean more unwanted pregnancies. “Contraception is an integral part of preventive care and a medical necessity for women during approximately 30 years of their lives," Dr. Hal Lawrence, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a statement shared with Bustle. "Since the Affordable Care Act increased access to contraceptives, our nation has achieved a 30 year low in its unintended pregnancy rate, including among teens. Any move to decrease access to these vital services would have damaging effects on public health and would essentially, turn back the clock on women’s health.”
Unwanted pregnancies have been linked to
increased mental health problems— they can have destructive effect on a woman's well being. It is not a burden that women should be forced to bear because they don't have access to birth control. "Using birth control protects the physical, emotional and financial health of women and families from the effects of having children they are not ready or able to care for," Grant says.
Trump's birth control is an attack on women. It is detrimental to their mental and physical health. So find
a way to protest. Support the legal challenges being made. Tell the administration that this is not an acceptable way to treat women. Because we deserve better.