Every day it seems as though when women gain an inch in their race to equality, there are efforts to take back a mile. President Trump has tried in various ways to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and in his latest attempt to take away from the ACA, he is also taking away from American women—about 70,500 to be exact, according to federal health officials. The Trump administration is trying to restrict the ability of some women to get no-cost birth control and their argument lies solely in the objection of their employers based on religious or moral grounds.
Under the Obama Administration, a system of narrow exemptions, allowed, for example, churches or religiously affiliated organizations to choose to not cover birth control for their female employees. In return, the administration created accommodations or workarounds to ensure, in the event of these exemptions, that women would still be able to get birth control covered through third-party institutions. Under Trump’s new rules, any nongovernmental workplace would be able to claim exemptions, which broadens the criteria to include not only churches/religious organizations but also small businesses and even Fortune-500 companies.
The impacts of allowing nongovernmental companies to opt out of birth control coverage could lead to states bearing expenses from women seeking these contraceptives and, potentially, healthcare for unintended pregnancies. Why is this relevant to college-age students? Because our students could potentially face major side effects from this rule. According to the Urban Institute, one in six women have faced some barrier in accessing birth control, including cost and insurance coverage. When faced with easier access to contraceptives, 63 % of women report experiencing less stress, 56% say it's helped them hold down a job, 54% say it's provided them health benefits, 49% say it's helped them continue their education and 49 % report more stable relationships with their partners. Pregnant on Campus states, “Less than one in ten students with children complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of college entry.”
Also, it is important to keep in mind that contraception is not only used for pregnancy prevention, but also for some medical conditions like endometriosis. A Guttmacher Institute study shows that 14% of women—1.5 million—rely on oral contraceptive pills for noncontraceptive reasons. Fortunately for North Carolina women, on Jan. 14, U.S. Judge Haywood Gilliam from California granted a request for a preliminary injunction for North Carolina, along with 12 other states and Washington D.C. Because of this, North Carolina women are safe from having their birth control coverage taken away, for now, but if Trump continues to push for exemptions based on religious and moral views, North Carolina women could become a part of the population of American women currently worried about how they will afford birth control.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement Jan. 20, “Today’s court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump Administration to trample on women’s access to basic reproductive care. It’s 2019, yet the Trump Administration is still trying to roll back women’s rights. Our coalition will continue to fight to ensure women have access to the reproductive healthcare they are guaranteed under the law.” Becerra refers to a coalition consisting of attorney generals from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington State and Washington, D.C.
By Haley Ivey, Staff Writer