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Trump birth control edicts: Another blatant attack on women’s health


Ever since President Donald J. Trump’s first day in office, his administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have relentlessly attacked women’s reproductive rights and access to care.

They’ve repeatedly tried to defund Planned Parenthood, reduced women’s access to family planning under Title X, and worked to dismantle consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act, including protections that ensure that being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.

{mosads}Under the ACA, insurers are required to cover contraception at no cost, and more than 62 million women now have access to birth control coverage at no out-of-pocket expense.

But the administration’s reckless rules issued last week would allow virtually any employer, insurance company, or university to deny coverage of contraception completely, rolling back decades of progress in women’s health, equality and economic security. They could rip birth control coverage away from many women, interfering with their personal decisions and access to care.

These rules let virtually anyone — including bosses, health plans, and schools – discriminate against women by refusing to cover birth control. As a result, women won’t just have higher out-of-pocket costs, they will pay the full cost for birth control if they lose coverage. In other words, many women will once again be forced to pay more for the health services they need just because they are women.

For example, birth control pills can cost $50 a month or more without insurance coverage. And longer-acting options, like IUDs, can cost up to a thousand dollars without insurance.

These rules violate congressional intent under the ACA. The fundamental goal of the ACA has been to expand access to affordable insurance covering a core set of health benefits, especially preventive services, which include birth control.

The ACA makes clear that birth control should not be singled out for different treatment than other health care benefits. It is vital to women’s health and is a public health success story in this country. Depriving women and their partners of birth control coverage jeopardizes their health and economic well-being. Women and couples use contraceptives to avoid unintended pregnancy, to help time births to allow for healthy spacing between them, and to achieve desired family size. And more than half of women on the pill also use it to treat other medical issues, such as endometriosis.

Despite strong, well-established evidence that birth control improves women’s health, the package of new Trump administration rules perpetuates numerous debunked myths about it. For example, they assert that birth control causes breast cancer and other adverse health effects. They erroneously suggest that access to affordable birth control causes teens to engage in risky behavior that may increase the incidence of teen pregnancy. Ironically, they also note that other federal programs offer alternative options for low-cost birth control, even though the administration and Republicans in Congress have worked tirelessly to undermine Medicaid, Title X and Planned Parenthood all year.

The administration contravened administrative procedure to make sure that these harmful policies take effect right away. It has no business pursuing these policies, but when changing something this important, it should have gathered public input on the effects of these rules through notice-and-comment rulemaking first. Nevertheless, the administration decided to issue interim final rules despite the complete absence of an emergency or urgent public need. As a result, some women may lose access to birth control coverage in the coming days and weeks. This growing trend across both the administration and Republicans in Congress of disregarding government procedures designed to protect the American public in order to jam through harmful, unpopular policies is deeply concerning.

By issuing these rules in such a reckless manner, the administration also ignored instructions laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell. The Court’s opinion instructed the administration to provide stakeholders with an additional opportunity to develop an approach that both facilitates seamless access to affordable contraception and allows for an appropriate accommodation for employers with sincerely held religious objections. The Obama administration started this process, but it was quickly and irresponsibly abandoned by the Trump administration. Stakeholders were not given good faith opportunities to weigh in on these rules through an open and transparent process.

For these reasons and others, multiple organizations are lining up legal challenges to the new rules, the latest twist in a saga that has wended its way through courts since the ACA became law.

These new rules constitute yet another blatant attack in the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to undermine women’s health. In just nine months in office, the president has unleashed an unprecedented assault on reproductive rights that have harmed women and girls across America and around the world.

We should not stand for it.

Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.

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