Trump Administration versus Women’s Health

#HandsOffMyBC has been trending on Twitter as a result of the policy changes regarding the Affordable Care Act. Photo courtesy of @NARAL/Twitter

Nicole Kuhn | Assistant News Editor | The USD Vista

Recent rollback on birth control coverage affects women on campus and across the country

Women may now have to pay out of pocket for birth control. A statement released by the US Department of Health and Human Services declared that the pill may no longer be covered by insurance. Employers can decide whether to cover birth control for their employees based on moral grounds. The rollback was issued on Oct. 6 by the Trump administration.

This policy change will affect about 62 million women who are currently covered and pay no cost for the pill under the Affordable Care Act. With the announcement quickly spreading, USD students are concerned with the news of optional coverage.

Junior Isabella Samrad reacted to the change in health care policy.

“Women should have the right to get birth control free of charge, regardless of what their employer or the government has to say,” Samrad said. “The rollback on birth control coverage concerns me because as a young woman, I feel entitled to the right to decide for myself, considering it is my body. I think women can continue to fight for this as a united force. Going forward, I hope to see a move in the right direction for women’s rights.”

Birth control coverage may be denied by employers based on religious or moral reasons. Senior Madison Lamb was confused why there is a rollback at all.

“I don’t get it,” Lamb said. “It’s messed up and doesn’t feel real to me why an administration would publicly attack the rights of women so blatantly. We have other purposes in life than to birth. Contraception allows women to have their own lives, to work, to enjoy life, and decide when they are ready, if ever, to start a family. I just don’t think it’s fair.”

Birth control has been around for fewer than a hundred years, but has supplied millions of women with basic reproductive care, from hormonal treatments to contraceptives.

Jillian Tullis, a Communication Studies professor at USD who focuses on health communication, was alarmed when she heard the news.

“I’m very concerned about this decision,” Tullis said. “Birth control is a vital medical treatment for many women. It is frequently used to regulate menstruation, minimize painful cramps, and even eliminate acne. But to be perfectly honest, if we want to minimize abortions, which everyone can agree that we do, easy and free access to birth control is essential.”

Tullis discussed that this may not be the only thing Trump’s administration could change. “This decision will create a lot of uncertainty and fear for women,” Tullis said. “What’s next? Will my employer-sponsored health insurance no longer cover mammograms? Pap smears? Maternity care? Heart health checks? These are critical for women to stay healthy, and I think many worry about what other types of treatment or care might be compromised in the name of religious liberty. As a woman, I also wonder why erectile dysfunction drugs are covered without controversy. That said, I think women can look into getting long-acting birth control such as IUDs and implants now while the benefit is still available.”

Women hold signs as they walk the streets during a protest to promote their choice for birth control. Photo courtesy of @RCRChoice/Twitter

Young women who use the pill as contraception may be more prone to unplanned pregnancies following a change in coverage. Tullis also brought up the idea that contraception affects men as well as women.

“It’s important to remember this is not just a women’s issue,” Tullis said. “Men will feel the consequences of this decision, too. Good family planning — the ability to have children when you’re ready — benefits everyone. So it’s a good time for all of us to advocate for access to comprehensive healthcare, including reproductive care. Let your representatives know how you feel.”

Trump’s administration explained that this rollback will help employers save money and protect religious affiliation. The rollback is an interim final rule, meaning that the rollback will become law immediately. The interim rule was issued Oct. 6, but the administration stated they will accept public comments until Dec. 5, 2017. Some students were infuriated by the news.

Senior Michaela Conley said she believes that this is an attack on women and their rights.

“Trump’s misogynistic presidency has repeatedly attacked women, and shown that women’s rights are not a priority,” Conley said. “This move only adds to the attacks. It’s also undoubtedly affecting millions of Americans.”

Massachusetts was one of the states to file a lawsuit against the mandate. In a response, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey made a statement about the issue.

“The Trump administration’s actions today are a direct attack on women’s health and the right to access affordable and reliable contraception,” Healey said. “By gutting this mandate, the religious belief of employers will replace the basic right of a woman to care for herself and her family. I will be suing the Trump administration today to stop this rule and defend critical protections for millions of women in Massachusetts and across the country.”

Other states, including California, Washington State, and Pennsylvania have also filed lawsuits challenging the rollback. Nonprofits, including the National Women’s Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have also joined the fray.

Erin Lovette-Colyer, Director of the USD Women’s Center, issued a statement on Monday concerning the rollback.

“The Women’s Center encourages all students to discover and use their voices to address inequity in the world,” Lovette-Colyer said. “Recent decisions by the White House Administration (whether intentional or not) serve to silence those voices.”

While the USD Student Health Center does not prescribe or provide birth control, Pamela Sikes, Director of the Student Health Center, reiterated that students have the SHC as a resource for medical advice concerning contraceptives and/or sexual health.