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Restrictive Freedom to Birth Control

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 on Wednesday, upholding President Donald Trump's move to let more employers opt-out of the Affordable Care Act mandate guaranteeing no-cost contraceptive services for women.

Before this ruling was passed, Obamacare had passed a compulsory law stating that employers had to provide birth control or contraceptive coverage under employee health insurance. Under these rules, millions of women obtain birth control at no cost through their employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

Seventeen states, led by Pennsylvania and New Jersey, challenged the policy by the Trump administration as fundamentally unlawful and it's rationale as "arbitrary and capricious." "The state's harm is not merely speculative; it's actual and imminent," Judge Beetlestone wrote. "The final rules estimate that at least 70,500 women will lose coverage."

By giving more freedom to employers, Trump is taking the freedom from thousands of menstruating women, who may require birth control as part of their plan. This legislation takes away their freedom of choice, their choice to start a family, which should be entirely in their control. This may result in many unintended pregnancies, for which more women are likely to turn to state programs for no-cost contraceptives, at significant cost to the states.

“That’s part of the point,” said Adam Sonfield, a senior policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group. “They’re trying to say that there can’t be a standard for who can have a religious objection or a moral objection.”

The rules roll back access to birth control for the 62 million women who gained access thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Women of colour made up the majority of people who gained coverage for birth control without a copay, including 17 million Latinas and 15 million Black women. Altogether, women saved more than $1.4 billion per year in out-of-pocket costs on birth control pills since the birth control benefit went into effect. That’s a savings of more than $3.8 million EVERY DAY.

Without the ACA’s guarantee of insurance coverage for birth control, many women — especially women of colour and young women — won’t be able to afford birth control at all. In fact, before the Affordable Care Act, 57 percent of women ages 18 to 34 said they’d struggled to afford birth control. Forty percent of Black women of reproductive age said they couldn’t afford more than $10 a month for birth control if they had to pay out of their pockets.

Studies have shown that birth control pills reduce the chances of problems such as uterine cancer and ovarian cysts. It also regulates menstrual cycles, and makes periods less painful.

About 31% of women who use birth control pills cite menstrual pain as one of the reasons they continue to take them. Taking away this basic right will unequivocally affect the mental health of thousands of women.

There are benefits and risks attributed to these pills, but taking them away from thousands of women who need them does more harm than good.

Trump’s ruling has given bosses the power to dictate how their employees can and cannot use their health insurance—allowing them to intrude into their employees’ private decisions based on whatever personal beliefs their employers happen to hold.

The bottom line is, birth control is a basic right for every woman, they're basic medicine, it's pure and simple. If we take away this basic freedom of choice from women, how do we call ourselves a democracy?

Written by Akshaya Krishnan

Graphics by Anashwara Mandalay

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