Limiting Access to Birth Control in the US: Does the US Now Have its Own Gag Rule?

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My blog post from March 3, 2017 (“The ‘Global Gag Rule’ Returns”) discussed how the Trump Administration was denying funding for family planning and reproductive health programs in the developing world, with the lack of contraception options leading to an increase in the number unwanted pregnancies, increased risks to maternal and child health, and an increase in the number of unsafe abortions.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has now turned to meddling in the bedrooms of America. The story takes us back to former President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), with the ACA including a provision to fund preventative services. With birth control defined as a preventative service, insurers were ultimately required to cover some 18 birth control methods. In doing so, birth control became free to millions of American women.

However, as the Trump Administration tries to dismantle the ACA, birth control may no longer be free given an expansion in the number of of employers and insurers that could qualify for exemptions from the birth control owing to moral or religious objectives.  The danger of not providing birth control options is the same as seen in the developing world: the lack of contraception options can lead to an increase in the number unwanted pregnancies and increased risks to maternal and child health. This time, the social and financial costs fall to the American taxpayer. In response, a number of state governments have introduced (or are introducing) legislation that aims to ensure birth control options remain available and are either inexpensive or free. To date, states that have passed so called ‘contraception equity’ laws include Nevada, Colorado, and Massachusetts and New York are considering such options.

Further Reading:

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “States Lead the Fight Against the President’s Rollback of Birth Control”, The New York Times, 10 June 2017, p. A12.

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