The Trump administration issued regulations Oct. 6 that would widely broaden the exceptions of a part of the Affordable Care Act that guarantees coverage for contraceptives for women who obtain insurance from their employers.
The administration put forth rules that would allow employers to invoke religious or moral beliefs to avoid the contraceptive coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act, which includes birth control pills and other contraceptives. This regulation angered many women’s rights groups who saw it as a discriminatory act against women. According to Fatima Goss, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the NWLC is prepared to take legal action to protect women’s right to birth control.
“Today’s outrageous rules by the Trump Administration show callous disregard for women’s rights, health and autonomy,” Goss said in a statement. “By taking away women’s access to no-cost birth control coverage, the rules give employers a license to discriminate against women.”
Birth control is a form of basic health care just like the flu shot or an annual check-up and can serve a purpose beyond contraception. According to the Center for Young Women’s Health, women take oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) to treat medical conditions such as endometriosis, amenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, primary ovarian insufficiency and polycystic ovary syndrome. They also help control acne, anemia and menstrual cramps. In a study done by the Guttmacher Institute in 2011, 14 percent of women who were using OCPs — approximately 1.5 million women — relied on them for non-contraceptive purposes.
Regardless, most women do utilize OCPs for contraceptive use, but that’s still their right — a right that should not be taken away. The use of contraceptives also decreases abortion rates — which could mean putting a halt to endless debates, protests and new regulations regarding the morality of terminating pregnancies.
Reducing their availability wouldn’t only be a step backward in health care but also a step back in the long path of women’s rights. Women fought for their right to education, to work, to vote and to be considered equal to their male counterparts in society. Now one of their most basic rights — the right to have access to basic health care — is being suppressed.
This regulation isn’t only an issue of health care and civil liberties — it also affects women’s First Amendment rights. Freedom of religion exists so that everyone can believe whatever they want to believe without imposing those beliefs on others. Religion is personal, and while everyone’s beliefs should be respected, it’s when they start affecting others that it becomes potentially unconstitutional. If this regulation continues, the rights of millions of women will be pushed down by the religious beliefs of their employers.
If insurance covers antibiotics for someone when they’re sick, it should cover contraceptives because they are simply another form of health care. Choosing to use contraceptives is a private decision; employers wouldn’t be asked to participate in other conversations regarding a patient’s medical care, so why should they get to determine who can have access to contraceptives?
The decision of who can’t have access to birth control shouldn’t be made by male politicians as it isn’t they who utilize these contraceptives. Even if the benefits of birth control weren’t so great, it’s still the woman’s right to choose whether or not to use them. In the words of “Friends”’ Rachel Green, “No uterus, no opinion.”
Stripping women of their right to basic health care is a discriminatory act and shouldn’t be put into action. The United States needs to recognize that any form of health care, birth control included, is a human right, and rather than walking backward and reducing access to it, the country should work to expand it. Women can go to school, women can work and receive equal pay, women can vote and women can and should choose what they want to do with their bodies.