Schneider: Rolling back the birth control mandate is a problem

While nothing may come rolling back the work-based birth control mandate, the Trump administration has created a large loophole for employers.

by Ellen Schneider

The Trump administration announced in October that it would be rolling back the portion of the Affordable Care Act which required employers to provide coverage of contraceptives for women. This change is misguided. The administration cited religious and moral objections, as well as a need to discourage any risky or crude sexual behaviors. However, the administration has taken into consideration the detrimental economic affects that this will have. 

If anything, it will cost the government more money to discontinue the aforementioned coverage. According to the Brookings Institute, the government saves approximately $7 for every $1 that it spends on contraceptives. These savings come from Medicaid and other forms of welfare that many women with unplanned pregnancies depend on. This move not only gives religion a foothold in what is supposed to be an autonomous, and otherwise secular, institution, but it legitimizes the notion that women who are having sex are engaging in lewd, inappropriate behavior.

Providing contraceptives empowers women economically. It is no coincidence that women who have control over their bodies execute more control over their lives. There are strong correlations between the availability of contraceptives, the decline of teenage pregnancies and the increase of women participating in the workforce and earning educations. An estimated 55 million women are currently receiving contraceptives through their employer insurance plan with no co-payment or out of pocket cost. In 2012, roughly 21 percent of women were paying for oral contraceptives, and after the mandate that number dropped to 3.6 percent. If this is repealed, a report by CNN indicates that women will spend an estimated $1.4 billion on birth control annually. 

The Trump administration is making a statement that I am not sure they’re conscious of. This revocation effectively prioritizes religion over the autonomy of women, and perpetuates harmful generalizations that damage the ability of women to exercise sexual agency. 

Conservatives are attempting to appeal to religious institutions and provide them with their own freedom. However, I stand firm in that religious convictions have no place in legislation. 

The administration should instead value the rights and demands of women as a whole rather than only religious radicals. Trump should work towards expanding family planning and enabling women to continue to contribute to a successful economy, as well as further their educations and compete in the workforce. As someone who ran on targeting GDP growth, this will be large step in the wrong direction. 

The Obama administration had also already addressed some religious concerns and created an exemption for religious institutions, through which employees could receive their health coverage from the government directly. However, this did not satisfy everyone. 

Roger Severino, the director of the Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights, said to NPR that he doesn’t expect the change to only affect a small percentage of U.S. women, and that most companies will likely continue to provide the coverage. However, many health policy analysts have pointed out that this does create a large loophole for nonreligious corporations to discontinue coverage of contraceptives to their employees. This will be leave women to pay the full cost of birth control out of pocket. This can cost anywhere from $4 to $55 per month. 

Despite Severino’s sentiments, there were a significant number of companies who sued the government over this mandate when it was first implemented. Most notably is the highly publicized Supreme Court case brought by the Hobby Lobby corporation. However, there were 71 other for-profit companies who challenged the ACA’s contraceptive mandate during that time, meaning that these corporations will probably opt-out, now that they have the option. While it is entirely possible that this change may lead to nothing at all, it still poses a threat to women’s rights and healthcare.