How The AHCA Will Impact Your Reproductive Rights

by Samantha Mendoza
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Thursday, House Republicans successfully took the first formal step toward repealing Obamacare by passing the American Health Care Act with a majority vote. While the ins and outs of health care reform can be complex, one thing is abundantly clear: The GOP health care plan is really horrible for women. Specifically, the AHCA harms women's reproductive rights by potentially making women pay more for pretty much any decision they choose to make regarding pregnancy, sex, and contraception.

In particular, the MacArthur Meadows Amendment to the bill makes it legal for states to apply for waivers that allow them to opt-out of the Obamacare policy that required insurance companies cover patients with pre-existing conditions. This means that, if the bill is enacted, insurance companies can ultimately force patients to pay more based on their health histories.

Unfortunately, the GOP pretty much considers being a woman a pre-existing condition. Many of the "illnesses" on the GOP's list of pre-existing conditions are almost exclusively gender-specific, like postpartum depression and cesarean sections. The AHCA would also allow states to opt-out of requiring that insurance plans provide "essential care benefits," a list of treatments and services that Obamacare deemed non-negotiable. That list includes birth control. Apparently, the word "essential" wasn't enough to convince House Republicans that women depend on these services.

Under the AHCA, birth control could become more expensive because it may not be covered by insurance providers. In addition, insurance plans that cover abortion would diminish because they would lose federal tax dollars. As if that wasn't enough, pregnant women would likely have to pay much higher premiums for maternity care. Basically, the new health care plan would ensure that women are at a disadvantage no matter what decisions they make for their own bodies.

Here's what you should know about how the AHCA could affect your reproductive decisions:

If You Use Birth Control...

Under the AHCA, all methods of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration were fully covered by insurance companies. But since the AHCA wants to allow states (and employers) to opt-out of Obamacare insurance regulations that ensure that essential benefits are covered, many women could be forced to pay for contraception out-of-pocket. Depending on the form of contraception, this could cost women as much as $800 a year.

If You Are Sexually Assaulted...

Under the AHCA's MacArthur Meadows Amendment, some states may price out people with pre-existing conditions from receiving health insurance — and sexual assault is considered a pre-existing condition. Because sexual assault causes so many survivors to develop psychological, physical, and emotional conditions — like post-traumatic stress disorder and sexually transmitted diseases — insurance companies may consider them too expensive to cover, and can instead shift the costs onto the patients. This could prevent many women from reporting sexual assault, or receiving life-saving treatment because doing so would potentially cause them to lose their insurance coverage.

If You Become Pregnant...

Because the AHCA would allow states and employers to opt-out of providing essential care benefits, pregnant women, or women who are planning to become pregnant, could very well lose their maternity care. This is because companies would pretty much create their own health care plans — some that include maternity care and some that do not, with very different prices. Business Insider reports that this could cause women under 40 who decide to purchase a maternity care to pay premiums that are 25 to 75 percent higher than normal plans.

If You Need An Abortion...

Under Obamacare, most private insurance companies typically cover abortion services if the practice doesn't face extreme restrictions in that state. But under the AHCA, women will no longer be able to use federal tax credits to buy health insurance plans that cover abortion. This would leave many patients unable to afford abortion services, and could cause many insurance companies to drop abortion coverage altogether since it would become so expensive.

If You Have Been Pregnant...

Many basic conditions associated with pregnancy are also considered pre-existing conditions that could raise health care costs for millions of women. This includes postpartum depression, which affects up to one in every nine women (according to the Centers for Disease Control), and cesarean sections, a procedure used in over 30 percent of annual pregnancies (according to the World Health Organization).

If You Want To Talk To Someone About Your Reproductive Options...

Planned Parenthood provides millions of women each year with life-saving information about sexual health decisions and contraception methods. But under the AHCA, as much as 60 percent of the organization's funding could be cut for at least a year. That's because much of the organization's funding comes from Medicaid and Title IX. The AHCA will ban Medicaid funding from going to organizations that provide abortions — even though that money does not directly fund the procedure. This could leave millions of women, especially low-income women who rely on Medicaid, with nowhere to go for counseling, STD testing, and low-cost contraception.

Of course, the AHCA has only passed phase one. The bill will now move on to the Senate, where many GOP leaders have expressed their opposition to some of the provisions included in the bill. Still, the fact that a majority of U.S. (mostly male) representatives agreed to so many policies that would punish women, no matter what reproductive decisions they make for themselves, is troubling.