With the imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act, many women are starting to worry about their access to birth control. After the election, requests for IUDs jumped, with women hoping they could get free birth control in place that would last through a Trump presidency. Luckily, some states have been stepping it up to provide alternative protection.
"The future of the ACA and its contraceptive coverage requirement is uncertain, so it’s more important than ever for state governments to proactively expand access to birth control," Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health, tells Bustle. "Over the past several months, we’ve seen state legislatures across the country doing just that." But don't get too excited. There's still a long way to go.
"Only four states (California, Illinois, Maryland, and Vermont) would guarantee equivalent contraceptive coverage if the ACA were repealed. On a brighter note, there has been a recent surge in contraceptive equity bills in states across the U.S. that would guarantee insurance coverage of birth control, including Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. We’ve also seen legislation introduced and enacted at the state level allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills and requiring insurance plans to cover a full year of birth control pills and over-the-counter contraceptives. These measures are steps in the right direction toward affordable, accessible birth control for women."
They are great steps, but they're still in the minority. Why is it so important that we protect this affordable access to birth control? Well, there are some big reasons:
1Fewer Unwanted Pregnancies
It may sounds like a no-brainer, but that doesn't lessen its significance. Unwanted pregnancies not only means more struggling families, but it also has the potential to completely sideline a woman's life. "Women have the right to autonomy over their reproductive health," Blanchard says. "This helps women achieve higher levels of educational and career advancement. Not only does this allow women to more fully participate in the workforce and achieve their life goals, but it helps to reduce economic uncertainties... Evidence has also proven that increasing access to contraception is the best way to reduce unwanted pregnancy, including among teenagers."
Pregnancy affects a woman's life far more than just having a baby — and women should be given the choice.
2There Are Other Health Issues Treated With Birth Control
Remember when you were a teenager and you had friends going on the pill to clear up their skin? Well, that's because birth control isn't just about preventing pregnancy. "The health benefits of birth control go beyond preventing pregnancy," Blanchard says. "Many women take birth control pills to regulate their periods, minimize menstrual symptoms, or for other health reasons."
If suddenly they didn't have access to birth control that they could afford (or at all) think of the ripple effects of that — missing work, underperforming, not to mention, just pain and suffering.
3It Protects Low Income Women
The affordability aspect shouldn't be overlooked. "Women should have access to contraception regardless of income," Blanchard says. "Eliminating the coverage requirement would increase the financial burden on women seeking access to birth control. Such barriers disproportionately affect low-income women, women of color, and immigrant women; for these women, paying for a doctor’s visit and for a prescription out-of-pocket can often put the pill out of reach." Considering low-income women are already having huge financial burdens placed on them, the fact that they would have to take this other hit just feels like insult to injury.
It's great that some state legislations are stepping up to the plate to protect their citizens, but so much needs to be done. There are too many benefits to protecting affordable access to birth control — and too many risks to letting it go.