Here’s a fun fact for you: birth control helps people prevent unplanned pregnancies. Shocking right?
Early Thursday morning, the Senate took the first steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. One of the amazing benefits of the ACA, has been no-copay birth control.
Birth control comes in a lot of forms: hormonal pills, patches, shots, intrauterine device (which, as the name suggests, are inserted into the uterus), diaphragms and cervical caps…the list goes on.
However, before the ACA, what all these forms of birth control required were money. Abstinence is, of course, free, but a highly unrealistic strategy for most humans. People have sex. Because of this, 99 percent of sexually active women will use at least one form of birth control in their lifetime. This includes married women who don’t want annual birthday sex to result in pregnancy and die hard sluts (who, well, could also be married). All kinds of people have (and enjoy!) sex. All kinds of people need and use birth control.
So the Senate — by a vote of 51 to 48 — passed a budget resolution (which is not a law per se, but an annual measure Congress votes on), and has begun the process of repealing the ACA.
The birth control mandate that is part of the ACA was already dealt a blow in 2014, when the federal religious freedom restoration act was used to take some of the teeth out of the measure as part of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. Yes, this is the same RFRA that has been framed as a totally innocuous measure by folks on the Right hoping to pass it in this state.
Now, 55 million women could lose access to no co-pay birth control. This policy change will be particularly devastating to low-income women, who may have to choose between paying for birth control and paying for other life essentials. And really, without Medicaid expansion, so many low-income women are in this boat today, though they shouldn’t be.
Georgia’s own Tom Price, the most likely pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, is someone who is not friendly to keeping birth control free and widely available. In fact, back in 2012, he denied that access is even a problem for low-income women, in an interview with ThinkProgress.
Q: Obviously one of the main sticking points is whether or not contraception coverage is going to be covered health insurance plans and at hospitals and whether or not they’re going to be able to pay for it, especially for low-income women. Where do we leave these women if this rule is rescinded?
PRICE: Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is, this is a trampling of religious freedom and religious liberty in this country. The president does not have the power to say that your First Amendment rights go away. That’s wrong.
As I wrote about previously, even without repealing the ACA, the birth control mandate can be gutted administratively. The head of Health and Human Services (that is, Tom Price) has some influence in that matter.
Access to birth control and access to abortion are part of the same spectrum of health care women need to have agency over their own reproductive health. Georgia has passed legislation, again and again, limiting access to abortion.
If the ACA is repealed and it is left up to states to address the gaps in coverage, I can’t imagine this state will have a friendlier approach to birth control.