President Trump and Birth Control

Mariah Wise, Staff Writer

In the past month, President Donald Trump has made significant changes to previous Obamacare statutes, including employers’ rights to refuse to cover birth control when giving employees health insurance. If not already known, Obamacare created the health care system we currently have which requires everyone to have health insurance of some kind and requires employers to give their full-time employees (whose weekly hours average out to over 28 hours per week) health insurance benefits, including some coverage to birth control for women; this includes birth control pills, intra-uderine devices, and contraceptive implants such as Nexplanon. Trump, as promised, has begun to change this specific part of the system—allowing businesses to opt out of covering birth control, for religious reasons.

We first heard about this when the craft retailer Hobby Lobby, refused to pay for their employees’ birth control several years ago. Unfortunately for them, Hobby Lobby was “trumped” by Obamacare and are currently forced to provide birth control coverage. Trump’s administration is now arguing for businesses like Hobby Lobby, claiming that requiring them to provide contraceptive coverage is against their “freedom of religion.” Proponents of these changes are calling it an attack on women’s reproductive rights.

In addition to this happening in the last month, the federal government has also been seeking to completely overturn Roe v. Wade and ban abortion altogether. So far, the House of Representatives has only gotten as far as a 20-week abortion ban through with Trump’s endorsement. While it is not fully into effect yet, the 20-week ban is being taken seriously by supporters—as a 17-year-old girl was held hostage in Texas for trying to get an abortion, even at just 15 weeks. The 17-year-old was an undocumented minor who entered the state of Texas through the Mexican border and was detained shortly after arriving. She was required to get guardianship if she wanted to get an abortion; however, after she obtained a guardian, she was still not transported to get said abortion or given to her guardian to be taken to get an abortion. This went on for over a month, mostly through October, until finally Jane Doe was able to receive her abortion—after the US Justice Department deemed it fit.

It seems as though the new POTUS believes that no birth control and no abortion will lead to less unplanned pregnancies in his nation; however, people who oppose are quick to retort that a lack of birth control will spiral out of control to lead to more unplanned pregnancies, and lack of a safe abortion will lead to higher rates of death by DIY abortion methods, as if we’re still living in 1955.

Looking at the other side of things, from a Republican or religious perspective, businesses are seeing it as their religious right to refuse to go along with laws that do not align with the values their company is based on. While this argument may be a job for the federal government to resolve, there is a large possibility that if the policies do not go through, states could enact their own legislation that would determine employers’ roles in the birth control coverage process, as some states already do.

Equity laws refer to laws made in each state that require employers to at least cover prescriptive contraceptives, i.e. birth control pills. These laws did not cover IUDs or contraceptive implants. Exemptions refer to whether or not employers have the ability to opt out based on religious morals, i.e. they are exempt from the law. The above map will show the 28 states who currently have equity laws and how broad or narrow their exemption status is. Broad exemptions mean it is easier for employers to be considered exempt, while limited means it is harder. The gray states above, have no equity laws. This means that those states have no ability to not cover the full range of birth control options for employees. This is determined state to state; therefore, there is still a chance for people in favor of repealing the Obama administrations rules could do so at a state level rather than a federal level.

While birth control may not apply to you for whatever reason, please stay informed as the laws we are voting for create a different environment for each and every one of us.