WASHINGTON — Today, health care champions in the United States Senate and House of Representatives announced critical legislation to protect access to birth control. The reintroduction of the Protect Access to Birth Control Act comes in response to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision that upheld two Trump administration rules allowing employers and universities to push their religious or moral beliefs on employees and students by denying them access to insurance that covers birth control.
The legislation — led by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Judy Chu (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Lois Frankel (D-FL) in the House and Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate — would repeal the Trump administration rules upheld by the Court.
The Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit expanded contraceptive coverage with no out-of-pocket costs for more than 62 million women, including 17 million Latinas and 15 million Black women. Because of yesterday’s decision, many more businesses and universities will have the opportunity to opt out of providing this critical coverage.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“Birth control is essential health care — period. But yesterday, the Supreme Court allowed bosses and universities to deny access to birth control coverage based simply on their own personal objections. Restrictions like this target Black and Latinx people, who are more likely to have low incomes due to systemic discrimination, and may not be able to afford out of pocket costs for basic health care like birth control.
“In response to this dangerous and discriminatory ruling from the Supreme Court, health care champions in Congress lept into action and announced legislation to protect access to birth control — no matter your employer, your university, how much money you make, or the color of your skin. As attacks on our access to sexual and reproductive health care continue in the nation’s capital and across the country, this legislation is critical and urgent. Congress should move swiftly to make the Protect Access to Birth Control Act law.”
An overwhelming majority of Americans believe women should have birth control coverage, regardless of their employer’s objections. The administration’s rules and the Supreme Court’s ruling are in direct opposition to what Americans want. Granting employers and universities the right to take away coverage for essential and time-sensitive care like birth control will complicate health care needs. It will also add to the economic hardships many face during the COVID-19 pandemic — access to birth control is responsible for one-third of women’s wage gains relative to men’s since the 1960s. Just last month, companies representing over 600,000 employees affirmed birth control coverage as an essential part of their health insurance plans and a critical step towards equity in the workforce.
Barriers to birth control access like these rules jeopardize the health, rights and livelihoods of the people hit hardest by the current public health crises: women, specifically women of color, who are more likely to be essential workers. Sadly, for Black and brown people, whose bodies have been policed for hundreds of years, these kinds of dehumanizing tactics are not new. The ability to control if and when to have children is crucial for women’s financial security, advancement, and — in times of economic turmoil — recovery.
These birth control rules are just the latest among many moves by the administration to undermine reproductive health care and access, including abstinence-only-until-marriage programs; gagging providers and forcing Planned Parenthood health centers out of the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care (Title X); and continued support of litigation to strike the ACA, even during these public health crises. A different regulation imposed by this administration threatens to embolden health care workers to refuse to provide health services that they personally find objectionable, like transgender care, abortion, sterilization, and AIDS treatment. That rule is blocked in court — for now. With these affronts to our bodily autonomy and access to essential health care, it is critical that Congress passes the Access to Birth Control Act.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational, advocacy and electoral activity, including grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and voter education.