California Forum

Denying women birth control is illegal and immoral. California is right to sue over it

Women in Los Angeles rally for access to contraception in 2015. California is suing to halt a rollback by President Donald Trump of Affordable Care Act provisions mandating that employer health insurance programs include birth control benefits.
Women in Los Angeles rally for access to contraception in 2015. California is suing to halt a rollback by President Donald Trump of Affordable Care Act provisions mandating that employer health insurance programs include birth control benefits. AP

For so many of us, access to birth control has been a given. It’s been 45 years since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized birth control and the impact of that decision has been immeasurable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked contraception as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Yet here we are, in 2017, with a president who wants to restrict birth control access and move us back to the dark days of inequity and inequality.

This fall, the Trump administration changed the rules to roll back the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate – allowing employers to drop birth control benefits from their insurance plans if they have “any religious or moral objection” to contraceptives. The rollback is yet another example of increasing attacks on women, from harassment and abuse to taking away fundamental rights to health care services.

In California, there are laws in place that ensure most Californians have unfettered access to contraception. There is just one large exception – companies that offer self-insured plans can still opt out of providing birth control benefits, leaving 6.8 million Californians vulnerable.

Thankfully, in California, there are laws in place that ensure most Californians have unfettered access to contraception. Laws such as Senate Bill 1053 not only codified the protections of the ACA into law, but also expanded the methods of birth control available without copay.

There is just one large exception – companies that offer self-insured plans can still opt out of providing birth control benefits, leaving 6.8 million Californians vulnerable. For that reason, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California is supporting state Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s court challenge to block the rollback.

We believe that denying access to contraception is both illegal and immoral. Thanks to the ACA’s birth control benefit, 55 million women gained access to contraception. Prior to the mandate, 55 percent of women between 18 and 34 years old struggled to afford prescription birth control.

Contraception is not just for family planning. Birth control is used to treat endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, fibroids and for menstrual regulation. Contraception must be treated like any other preventive medical care.

Rolling back birth control access is also an economic and social justice issue. The pill is responsible for one-third of women’s wage gains relative to men since the 1960s because it put women in charge of the decision to have children if and when we are ready.

That’s why most Americans support no-copay birth control and understand that a woman's ability to access basic health care should not be up for debate. Think of how far we’ve come over the last 45 years.

Infant and maternal mortality rates have plummeted. Women have made tremendous progress towards equity and equality – though there are still battles like this one to fight. The ability to make our own reproductive decisions seemed to be a given too, but threats to birth control access are real.

Yet Donald Trump clearly doesn’t hear us. He’d rather distract, confuse and draw attention away from this and other regressive policies. This is why we at Planned Parenthood will continue to make our voices heard and call out any attempt to deny basic rights.

And we will fight tirelessly to protect every person’s right to sexual and reproductive health care.

Crystal Strait is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. Reach her at @CrystalStrait or crystal.strait@ppacca.org.

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