Originally published: MinnPost 10/18/2017
On Oct. 6, the Trump administration announced a new rule that allows any employer, school, or other entity to opt out of providing insurance coverage for birth control for religious or moral reasons — a standard unprecedented in its vagueness. Whether or not Minnesota businesses will actually now opt out of insurance coverage for birth control is beside the point.
The points that actually do matter to women in Minnesota are many.
First, birth control is essential health care. The fact that we’re debating this in 2017 is demoralizing and preposterous. Every major medical and public health organization agrees that birth control benefits women and families – especially in terms of maternal and infant health outcomes and mortality rates. That, alone, should be enough to keep lawmakers and the president from attempting to undermine women’s access to it.
Second, the new rules allow an employer to decide whether their female employees can get their birth control covered, based on the employer’s views about birth control. But why should a woman’s employer have any say at all in whether she can access or afford birth control? They shouldn’t. Just as politicians shouldn’t. It’s terrible public policy and it’s a dangerous precedent to set. It jeopardizes access to no-cost birth control for 62.4 million American women, including 1.1 million Minnesotans.
Third, birth control is an economic issue for women. Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 1 in 5 American women postponed or went without preventive care in the prior year because of cost, and contraceptives made up an estimated 30-44 percent of out-of-pocket health-care spending for women. Since the ACA, women have saved $1.4 billion per year thanks to the mandate. And, because they can afford it, women are now turning to more effective long-term birth control methods, such as the IUD and implants.
Beyond costs directly associated with obtaining birth control, women have more economic stability in general since the invention of birth control. Birth control has been shown to expand educational opportunities for women and increase their wages over time. Additionally, fully one-third of the wage gains women have made since the 1960s are the result of access to oral contraceptives.
Any attempt to roll back the clock on women’s access to birth control is unacceptable – regardless of what Minnesota businesses decide to do in reaction.
That’s the point. And that’s why the Planned Parenthood Action Fund is calling on state lawmakers to bring forward legislation that would preserve the birth control protections in the ACA for Minnesotans.
Sarah Stoesz is the president of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund.