McGrath: Birth Control Is Healthcare


(Courtesy Pixabay)

By Mackenzie McGrath


Religious and reproductive freedom — two of the most dreaded topics to come up during holiday conversations with relatives. It’s not without reason. Religion is deeply intertwined with many people’s core beliefs and access to healthcare is essential to perform the most basic, daily activities. This tension exists in legislative politics in addition to the dinner table. Luckily, Congress found a balance between the two with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate which protected religious organizations’ freedom while also ensuring that employees can access affordable contraceptive care. Instead of the employer paying for contraception coverage, the federal government would do it, the employer just had to let the government know that it needs to pay for the coverage.

This month brought a ruling from the Supreme Court saying that the Trump administration could exempt employers with religious or moral objections from being required to notify the government that it needs to cover their employees’ contraceptive care, effectively allowing employers to deny their employees affordable access to contraception. On its face, this recent SCOTUS decision could seem like a difficult intersection of two complicated issues with no clear answer but that isn’t the case. This debate isn’t about religious freedom. It’s about access to necessary and life-changing healthcare. Restricting women’s access to low cost contraceptives is a direct attack on low-income women.

When it comes to contraception, the only religious beliefs that matter are those of the person seeking it. Where is the freedom to infringe on a woman’s right to healthcare? Contrary to the beliefs of this policy’s supporters, contraceptives are not “tantamount to abortion.” This statement lacks a severe, basic understanding of science and how preventative contraceptives even work in the body. Contraceptives prevent pregnancy, they don’t end a pregnancy. Additionally, women require access to contraceptives for a whole host of reasons including menstrual regulation, cramp management, migraine prevention and acne treatment. Anti-choice religious entities have made their stance on abortion clear, but to make matters worse they also oppose one of the key components to preventing it, birth control. Illogical reasoning aside, religious freedom doesn’t justify stripping away life-saving services from thousands of women.

Blocking employees’ access to basic healthcare directly harms working class women. The Trump administration argued that “women who could not get coverage from their employers had other ways to obtain contraceptives.” If the Trump administration really cares about finding alternatives, why did they cut funding to the Title-X program that helps poor women afford birth control, cancer screenings and disease testing? The Trump administration’s policy decisions not only restrict access to contraceptives but when working women are forced to give birth, they are also left without the additional assistance they need to afford a child. What about when the pregnant mother who can’t afford prenatal check-ups and preventative care for her child? Or is facing outrageous hospital bills for giving birth? How is she supposed to afford basic necessities for the child when the 2019 Trump budget cuts funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — also known as food stamps — by more than $213 billion over the next ten years? Trump’s undermining of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate and proposed budget cuts to social welfare programs blatantly shows us that they don’t care about poor women and families.

Birth control does more than preventing unwanted and we shouldn’t have to beg companies and employers to make a necessary medication accessible. Allowing employers to take away affordable access to contraceptives shows the Trump administration’s true belief — women shouldn’t be able to control their healthcare.


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