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Birth control is essential tool in the fight to advance race and gender equity

WASHINGTON — Today, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld for now two Trump administration rules that allow employers and universities to push their religious or moral beliefs on employees and students by denying them access to insurance that covers birth control. Bosses and universities will be able to decide — based on their own objections — if their health insurance plans cover birth control. 

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 this decision, many more businesses and universities will have the opportunity to opt out of providing this critical coverage. 

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“Today’s ruling is egregious — people rely on birth control for their health, for their livelihoods, and for their ability to determine their own futures. The dual public health crises of COVID-19 and systemic racism and violence are pushing people, our health care system, and our economy beyond their limits, and yet today, the Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration to make essential health care even more difficult to access. Restrictions like this target Black and Latinx people who are more likely to be low income and for whom basic health care has always remained out of reach, because of historic and continued underinvestment in access to affordable care. This decision will only make life harder for the very people who are keeping our economy afloat during this pandemic and fighting in the streets for the right to control their bodies and lives.

“This is not over. We will do all we can to ensure those who need birth control and other sexual and reproductive health care can access it. And we will not stop until that is a reality for everyone, no matter who you work for, where you go to school, how much money you make, or the color of your skin. You have the right to make your own decisions about your body, your health care, and your future, and we will never back down from this fight.”  

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe women should have birth control coverage, regardless of their employer’s objections. This ruling is in direct opposition to what Americans want. Granting employers and universities the right to take away coverage for essential and time-sensitive medication 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

Barriers to birth control access like these rules jeopardize the health, rights and livelihoods of the people hit hardest by this confluence of the public health and unemployment 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 move by the administration to push policies that attack 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.

It is clear today that access to all sexual and reproductive health care is at risk. The fight ahead of us is for every person who needs health care to build the future they deserve. Planned Parenthood Action Fund stands with more than 90 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations working to ensure discriminatory health care barriers are eliminated; research and innovation advance sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice; and sexual and reproductive health care is accessible to all. We are not just fighting to maintain the status quo: Now more than ever, we need to expand access to reproductive health care so people of every race and income level — regardless of where they live, where they work, or where they go to school — have the ability to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures. We will never stop fighting.

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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.

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