On Oct. 6, the Trump administration rolled back a crucial piece of the Affordable Care Act so that any employer can now claim a moral or religious objection to providing contraception coverage, thus denying their employees access to critical health care – contraception.
Nearly all women – 99% – who have had sex have used some form of contraception at some point during their reproductive lives, regardless of faith or religion (National health statistics reports. 2013 Feb 14). Most women spend the majority of their fertile life span, approximately 35-40 years, avoiding pregnancy, and only a few years actively trying to become pregnant. A desired pregnancy is a gift, but unplanned pregnancies may have a negative impact on women, families, and society.
In the United States, our rising maternal mortality ratio is currently at 26.4 per 100,000 live births (Lancet. 2016 Oct 8;388:1775-812). Given the risks of pregnancy, especially to those with medical conditions that make pregnancy more dangerous, women need access to methods to avoid pregnancy until they actively seek it. If employers of for-profit businesses now choose to claim a moral or religious objection to providing coverage for contraception, millions of women could become unable to access affordable, effective contraception.
Since the Affordable Care Act mandate that provided coverage for contraceptive methods with no cost-sharing, thousands of women have had improved access to contraception, including IUDs and contraceptive implants, the most effective and longest-lasting reversible methods available. Since President Trump took office, many women have presented to clinics across the country to get long-acting contraception, like an IUD or implant, before the Trump administration could pull the plug on the contraceptive mandate. That scenario has now occurred, leaving millions of women up in the air about the future of their contraceptive coverage.
By allowing employers to deny coverage of contraception, the Trump administration is demonstrating its lack of concern for women’s health and its denial of the most fundamental principles of public health.
Rolling back the contraceptive mandate is rolling back on vital women’s preventive health services. It is counter to society’s interest in public health and is discriminatory against women.
Dr. Prager is associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington, Seattle. She is also the director of the family planning division and family planning fellowship. Dr. Prager is an unpaid trainer for Nexplanon (Merck). Dr. Espey is professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Dr. Espey reported having no relevant disclosures.