A doctor tells us the serious health risks of Trump’s birth control mandate rollback
On October 6th, the GOP rolled back the Obama-era mandate that required employers to include birth control in their health care plans. Effective immediately, any employer that is morally or religiously opposed to birth control has the right to remove birth control from its health care plan.
Dr. Anuj Khattar, Fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, spoke to us about the dangers of taking away this key health care component — and how it could set a dangerous precedent for future legislation.
Khattar emphasizes that unplanned pregnancies can never be taken lightly. “There are health risks associated with unplanned pregnancies,” he says, and notes that the abortion rate has reached an all-time low thanks to accessible contraception. Furthermore, access to contraception is beneficial to everyone — not just women.
"I don’t think contraception is just for women. It’s for families and couples and relationships. It's really crucial for health care because it allows people to live the healthiest life they want to live and to choose when they want their pregnancies," Khattar says. "It creates a controlled environment. It's a basic, necessary aspect of health care for women...In a society where we don’t allow women to control their ability to have children, we regress in our ability to move forward and empower women."
Although women are 100% entitled to use birth control solely to avoid unwanted pregnancies, the fact is that girls and women of all ages use birth control to treat a variety of medical conditions.
"Decreasing access to birth control can cause anemia in women who have heavy menstrual bleeding," Khattar explains. "It's also used to manage pelvic pain for women with endometriosis. It helps treat uterine fibroids and polycystic ovarian syndrome."
Khattar also notes that birth control is crucial for women who are in chemotherapy to treat cancer; becoming pregnant while undergoing chemo can cause damage to a fetus.
Khattar says the mandate treats corporations as individual people, and it’s a concerning step in the wrong direction.
"If we’re trying to allow people religious freedom, we shouldn’t be allowing corporations religious freedom. It should be the individuals themselves who get to choose whether or not they use birth control for contraception or any medical condition. What corporations or the government should really be doing is creating access to options and availability so that people can make informed decisions for their own lives," he says. "Yes, you can have your own religious objection to it, but don’t use it yourself. So I think this is really backwards...the government is not forcing women to take birth control by mandating access to birth control through insurance coverage. It’s giving women the choice to use it."
Passing legislation based on moral or religious views is a slippery slope — and the birth control rollback sets a disturbing and dangerous precedent. Based on who’s in control of the government at any given time, other life-saving medical treatments could be removed from health care plans.
"Any life-saving condition can sometimes be viewed as morally or religiously wrong. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses are against blood transfusions. If they’re the people in power, they can decide that no one get blood transfusions in the future," Khattar says. "That increases the risk of dying from anemia or blood loss for a majority of people who receive blood transfusions every day."
The GOP’s efforts to limit access to birth control are a vicious attack on women’s health care and a way to shame women for being sexually active.
"One of the main arguments they’re using for passing this is that access to contraception leads to 'higher risk sexual behavior' and that’s just not proven," Khattar says. "What it has proven is that access to birth control decreases the rate of abortion and unwanted pregnancies. It’s at an all-time low because we’ve had amazing access to birth control through the ACA mandate."
Even if we don’t currently rely on birth control for contraception or a medical condition, this mandate is a devastating blow to women’s rights to their own bodies.