In case you’ve been deliberately avoiding the news in an effort to save what’s left of your sanity, you should know that the Trump administration just moved to make it easier for employers to opt out of covering contraceptives.
Last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services amended an Obama-era ACA mandate that employer health insurance plans must cover birth control. Effective immediately, employers can now exclude contraceptives from their insurance plans for religious or moral reasons.
According to the New York Times, the administration claimed that the rule had to be issued quickly because the normal process of seeking public comment before acting would be “impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.” They added that coverage of contraception could lead to more “risky sexual behavior” among some teenagers and young women.
According to the Washington Post, Roger Severino, director of HHS’s office for civil rights, said of the directive, “That was a promise made, and this is the promise kept… We should have space for organizations to live out their religious identity and not face discrimination because of their faith.”
So let me get this straight: Employers should not have to cover birth control if the company has any religious or moral objections to contraceptives, but discriminating against women by not covering their preventative care is totally fine. Got it.
What seems to be lost on all the men in our government is that birth control is covered as part of preventative care for a reason. Birth control pills are used to treat a variety of medical conditions, not only as contraceptives. (But let’s be clear, if men could get pregnant, contraceptives would be available over-the-counter, in bulk. Don’t deny it.)
According to the Center for Young Women’s Health, here are some common medical uses for the birth control pill:
Regulating Menstrual Cycles: Birth control may be prescribed to balance hormone levels such as estrogen. They can be used to treat a lack of periods or to help balance heavy menstrual cycle flows.
Treating Menstrual Cramps: The Pill is sometimes prescribed for menstrual cramps because it prevents ovulation and can help regulate cycles.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI): Some girls have ovaries that don’t make enough estrogen. This can happen due to radiation and/or chemotherapy, genetics, or other conditions. In these cases, birth control pills are needed to regulate the menstrual cycle and keep bones healthy.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This is a hormonal imbalance which causes irregular periods, acne, and excess hair growth. Birth control pills are prescribed in these instances to lower certain hormone levels and regulate periods.
Endometriosis: Endometriosis often includes having cramps or pelvic pain during menstrual cycles. Since periods can cause severe pain for young women with endometriosis, using birth control pills to stop (or regulate) periods can help alleviate pain.
Acne: Birth control pills may be prescribed to help treat moderate or severe acne. The hormones in the Pill can help stop acne from forming.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Birth control pills may be prescribed to stop ovulation and keep hormone levels balanced. PMS symptoms such as mood swings, breast tenderness, weight gain, and bloating may improve with contraceptive use, particularly when pills are prescribed continuously.
Other medical benefits of birth control pills include that you’re less likely to get anemia (because there is less menstrual bleeding when taking them). They also lower your chance of getting endometrial (lining of the uterus) cancer, ovarian cancer, and ovarian cysts.
This administration, along with the rest of the GOP, has made their lack of respect for women’s health care very clear. Just last week, the House of Representatives passed a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This doesn’t take into account that many women don’t know the outcome of their genetic testing, and don’t receive their full anatomy scan, until around this time. Because, of course it doesn’t.
The lack of insurance-covered birth control as well as the 20-week rule for abortions will disproportionately affect low-income women who are less likely to have affordable access to reproductive care.
If this all feels strangely dystopian, that’s because it is. Can you imagine a government mostly run by females that regulated men’s testicles? A woman’s medical decisions should be left between herself, her doctor, and her own faith.
No one should be punished for simply having a uterus. Or maybe we should just tell Republicans there are guns in there, so they agree that regulating them isn’t the answer.