Religious Attack on Body Rights

GOP rolls back ACA regulations on birth control access

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The Trump administration has slashed Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations on contraceptive access, creating economic, political and social barriers to health care for hundreds of thousands of people. As of Oct. 6, employers or insurers may choose not to cover contraceptives if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs or moral convictions. The GOP’s decision to cut this coverage directly interferes with the health of people prescribed birth control for health or reproductive purposes.

Illustration by Owen Thomas

Recreating an economic barrier to birth control could force people to choose between an economic burden and the risk of unwanted pregnancies. Studies show unwanted pregnancies and abortions have decreased since 2008, with the introduction of new health care policies. These pregnancies will likely increase with the reintroduction of copays on birth control.

The only justification Republicans offer for such severe restrictions on reproductive autonomy is a faulty argument that mixes church and state.

“This is a landmark day for religious liberty,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-WI.

It is dehumanizing for government officials such as Ryan to commend this misogynistic and discriminatory infringement on human rights. Additionally, Ryan and other conservatives ignore the ACA’s exemption of houses of worship and religious nonprofit and for-profit organizations from having to cover contraceptive plans. The original ACA regulations did not violate religious liberty and people still had access to birth control.

The new law allows public businesses, including universities, to opt out of coverage. While UC students who are covered by the University of California Student Health Insurance Program (UC SHIP) will not be affected directly by these changes, students who have opted out of UC SHIP could be. Additionally, those graduating could potentially enter their first job after college at risk of gender discrimination from their employer.

More than 55 million women had access to contraception without copays and hundreds of thousands could now be forced to pay for birth control pills out of pocket. Without insurance coverage, this could bring an economic burden of up to $500 per year to individuals.

The Health and Human Services Department tried to underplay the impact of these rollbacks by claiming 99.9 percent of the 165 million women in America will not be affected and women in lower socioeconomic classes will have other government-funded resources for birth control. However, the Trump administration made it very clear that it plans to defund programs, such as Planned Parenthood, that provide reproductive health resources to low-income individuals seeking contraception. Under the Republicans’ view of public health, there will be little to no government-funded resources left for birth control.

The unspoken motive of the GOP’s rollback is to prevent people from controlling their bodies, health and reproduction. If people cannot control their reproduction, they are less likely to pursue work-intensive, lucrative careers. More specifically, those in marginalized communities will face yet another barrier in improving their economic situations. In the process of striving for economic mobility, people who can bear children and do not have access to birth control have their freedoms to make decisions concerning the division of their time between careers and childcare labor curtailed.

The public should continue to lobby for human and reproductive rights by calling local representatives and encouraging them to fight for equal access to health care.