Over the past ten months, checking the news has quickly become one of my least favorite parts of the day. As I open the tabs on the internet, it’s like I already know what I am going to find. More disappointment, more sexism and discrimination, and more reasons to be embarrassed that Donald Trump is our president. The past few weeks have been no different. I still can’t decide if the worst part of the latest blow to women’s rights is that employers can now refuse to cover contraception in insurance plans, or that I was not surprised when I read this headline.
On October 6, 2017 the Trump administration made moves to reverse the federal requirement that mandates that employers provide contraceptive insurance coverage to women. About five months ago Donald Trump announced that he would not allow people to be targeted, bullied, or silenced based on their faith. I need not point out the irony of this statement coming from a man who repeatedly attacks anyone who is not of Christian faith, and whom refuses to protect and advocate for minority groups being victimized in our country.
Anyways, I digress. In support of this statement five months ago Donald Trump has decided to push forward a mandate that would allow employers to deny insurance coverage to women for contraception based on their personal religious beliefs. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) removed the Obama Care requirement that mandated employers to provide coverage for contraception to their employees. For an administration so set on preventing abortions, it seems as though they are working against themselves. Perhaps they need to go back to tenth grade biology.
The Obama Care legislation meant that more than 55 million women had access to contraception without co-payments. This drastically increased access to contraception for women who otherwise could not afford it. This latest attack on women’s rights will result in many of these women losing this benefit.
The administration has been defending their actions by saying that they are protecting religious freedom. How is denying women the right to contraception and then forcing them to give birth based on religious grounds and lack of scientific facts “freedom”? It’s not. It is overt oppression. If they are so keen on preventing abortion than they should be handing out birth control at the White House door not making it harder to access.
This move came in conjunction with Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting that the Justice Department look at the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and change the ban on discrimination based on sex to not include transgendered individuals. Opening this flood gate of allowing discrimination and oppression in places of employment is dangerous on many grounds. While people absolutely should have the right to practice whatever religion they believe in, enabling employers to make decisions based on their religious beliefs could easily lead to discrimination against LGBTQ employees, women, and other minority groups. This recent legislation is in fact broad based religious discrimination.
As the Richard B. Katskee, the legal director for Americans United For Separation of Church and State recently said, “Religious freedom is the right to believe and worship as you see fit. It’s never the right to use government to impose costs, burdens or harms on other people. You can’t use the government to make other people pay the price for your religious beliefs or practices.”
Prior to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care) many forms of contraception were covered to some extent, but not all and not completely. The new mandate could make contraception unaffordable for a large portion of the population yet again. Additionally, Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) methods such as IUDs and subdermal implants are quite expensive without insurance coverage. These highly effective and long-lasting methods have changed the face of contraceptive care. While initially expensive, there are long term cost savings for both patients and the health care system. Yet lack of insurance coverage will be a barrier to access.
While we wait to see how this roll back of the previous federal requirement for contraception coverage manifests, we should continue to counsel patients on all available contraceptive methods. While it should always be the patient’s choice as to what method she uses, thorough patient education can help her make an informed decision. Dispelling myths about contraceptive methods, especially LARCs, is a good place to start.