The Need for Free Birth Control
an article by Sunna Mai
Dear Asian Youth,
Birth control. We’ve all heard of it. A tiny, white pill so strong that it can prevent a child from entering this world. But that’s not its only benefit. As a girl, I’ve suffered my fair share of hormonal acne, excruciating cramps, and sudden mood swings during that time of the month (not to mention the many cute pants I’ve ruined!). Not only can birth control help regulate these symptoms, it also has the ability to prevent ovarian cysts, uterine cancer, infections in the uterus, and a number of other health issues. As of today, about 46.9 million women are covered by insurance for contraception. That’s 46.9 million women who rely on free birth control and 46.9 million women who each save around $600 a year. But what happens when you no longer have easy access to birth control?
Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide a healthcare plan that completely covers birth control for all female employees. But what about employers who have religious objections? Well, the Obama administration provides a rule that works around this hurdle: organizations with religious objections to birth control can directly notify the government or the insurance company of their objections. In turn, the insurance company will provide individuals with contraception separate from the employer’s healthcare plan, removing the employer from the equation entirely. Now, it’s no secret that President Trump’s administration has been fighting against coverage for contraception and access to reproductive healthcare. In 2017, new regulations were proposed to allow any employer to deny access to no-cost contraception on the basis of religious or moral objections. These regulations are so convoluted that it’s hard to tell what excuses are legitimately covered under “moral objections.” Essentially, even non-religious employers will be granted the right to control a woman’s reproductive decisions.
Does the Trump administration even have the power to enact such a broad exemption? States like Pennsylvania and New Jersey don’t seem to think so. They’ve halted the new regulation from going into effect by claiming that the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) does not have the authority to violate the Affordable Care Act’s current rules. Filed in 2018, the case has reached the Supreme Court, but the conflicted justices have yet to reach an official ruling. However, with the Supreme Court being a Republican-majority, it wouldn’t be surprising if they vote in favor of the Trump administration’s exceptions—especially if this case drags on beyond November and Trump is re-elected into office.
But, why is it that female forms of contraception are continually under attack when they have the greatest success rates? I don’t see anybody protesting male condoms. Do you? Condoms are proven to only be 85% effective compared to birth control pills and IUDs, which are both 99% effective when used correctly. The irony here is that men have a history of making decisions for women that tend to end in further oppression, especially when it comes to their bodies. Imagine if the roles were reversed and women tried to take condoms away from men.
Now, I may not use birth control myself, but I have witnessed its importance, as many of my friends utilize birth control to treat their health related issues. In the U.S., 58% of women use the pill for reasons other than contraception, such as relieving menstrual disorders and pains, treating acne, and treating endometriosis. This is precisely why birth control is a health care right and not only a means to preventing pregnancies. Birth control costs up to $50 each month and not all women are able to afford the cost, especially women from lower-income brackets. Unplanned pregnancies affect lower-income women the most, as abortions cause a bigger dent in their wallet and raising childen is a huge monetary strain. These women will be unable to break free from the never ending cycle of poverty if they are not provided with effective forms of birth control. Additionally, women with unplanned pregnancies are far more likely to smoke, drink, experience domestic abuse, have depression, and receive little or no prenatal care; this can lead to developmental problems in the child. The government alone spends about $21 billion a year on unplanned pregnancies, and that’s with birth control coverage for most women. Now imagine what the cost would be if birth control was no longer free. This is not only an issue concerning the health care rights of women; if birth control access is denied, our economy will suffer.
For decades, women have been fighting and advocating for widespread access to reproductive healthcare. Margaret Sanger, a feminist born in 1879, played a critical role in the production of birth control. She dedicated much of her life to providing women with effective contraception because she believed that controlling family size was crucial in ending women’s poverty. After years of protesting and starting her own organizations (one of which later became Planned Parenthood), the widespread use of contraception became legal in 1936, and the first birth control pill was finally approved by the FDA in 1960. To this day, Sanger’s legacy still reigns as millions continue to fight for greater birth control access. But now, the Trump administration is dishonoring her legacy by proposing new restrictions on contraception. If Trump’s new regulation for birth control goes into effect, it’s estimated that 70,000 to 126,000 women will lose their coverage for contraception—a classic case of the federal government’s never-ending ploy to control women and their bodies. Whether or not a woman chooses to take birth control is ultimately her choice. Unless you experience the daily struggles of being a woman, it’s really not your place to speak for those who do. After years of fighting for gender equality, women are finally getting a say over how they want to dictate their lives, and birth control plays an enormous role in that. As a teenage girl, I sincerely hope that my right to birth control will not be stripped away by the government, so that the generation of young girls after me will not have to write articles fighting for their healthcare.
- Sunna Mai