​SIEGEL: Trump administration’s policy on birth control is bad for women

Backtracking on the progress achieved by the Obama administration will have far reaching consequences

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Rules under the Obama Administration that broadened access to healthcare have come under fire by the Trump Administration. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

It’s not headline news the rights of the religious and the secular have been at odds with one another on many occasions in the political realm. The highly contested Obama administration policy which mandated free contraceptive coverage has made its way back into the national conversation as President Donald Trump signals a bold change in direction. His intentions to excuse employers and insurers from adhering to the birth control mandate upon ethical and religious grounds will alienate 51 percent of the American population.

Following Obama’s addition to the Affordable Care Act concerning women’s reproductive rights, religious conservatives deemed it to be an infringement on the free exercise of religion, an attack on fundamental religious liberties. However, the burden is light compared to the alternative. While the sincerity of rejecting the practice of contraceptives upon religious grounds is unquestioned, the imposition of coverage does not qualify as a so-called substantial burden. An imminent culture of disbelief rattles conservative thinkers — yet, as Jean Bucaria, Deputy Director of The National Organization for Women, says, we “should not trade away the health and individual liberties of the vast majority of American women who will use birth control at some point in their lives to quell a misdirected debate about religious freedom.”

In 2014, we saw one of the largest advances in women’s health care in generations, providing millions of American women with insurance coverage for a range of contraceptives and prenatal health services without a co-payment. Just three years later, we are giving way to religious laws, ultimately losing sight of our nation’s credo to ensure individual freedoms for all. Politicians have no place in a doctor’s office legislating a woman’s reproductive rights.

Just last week, Lena Dunham contributed her thoughts on this matter, shifting the conversation to one centered on a woman’s basic reliance on oral contraceptives to live a life free of pain. Birth control is more than a crucial preventative measure to decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies. For millions of women suffering from endometriosis, uterine abnormalities or cystic acne — just to name a few — “birth control can be a crucial, even lifesaving, medical treatment.” Dunham challenges us to imagine if endometriosis — a disease she, along with one in ten women, struggles with — went unchecked. An illness which is treatable with hormonal contraception will clash with the blockade that is Trump’s health care proposition.

It is no longer a matter solely concerning the separation of powers between church and state — stripping funding from Planned Parenthood and giving employers the opportunity to deny women access to oral contraception will invite a bleak reality for many women who rely on such medication to manage their conditions, essentially hindering America’s health and wellness progress.

While the Affordable Care Act is not a perfect policy, Obama’s birth control provisions are credited with helping to decrease teenage pregnancy rates, as well as abortion rates. Broadening the religious exemption concerning birth control will curtail such improvements and does not benefit the nation at large. With states leading the resistance to such changes, it is crucial we remember the overarching need to equalize preventative health insurance benefits and keep American women safe and healthy.

Lucy Siegel is an Opinion editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at l.siegel@cavalierdaily.com.

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