In the past several months, women’s reproductive rights have been placed under fire by the Trump administration.
The president recently issued a rule allowing employers to decide whether or not to provide birth control for women based on religious and moral dispositions.
According to a Chicago Tribune article, “The new regulation, issued by the Health and Human Services Department, allows a much broader group of employers and insurers to exempt themselves from covering contraceptives such as birth control pills on religious or moral grounds.”
This has the potential to leave a staggering amount of women without access to long-term contraceptives, which may not only increase the rate of unwanted pregnancy, but have serious effects on women who take birth control to regulate medical problems.
Birth control can serve many purposes aside from contraception. Uses can range from easing menstrual cramps to treating ovarian cysts.
Endometriosis, for example, is a lifelong disease which causes the painful growth of uterine tissue on the exterior of the uterus or ovaries.
Endometriosis.org reported: “Studies indicate that women with minimal–mild endometriosis take longer to conceive (become pregnant) and are less likely to conceive than women in general. For women with endometriosis, they may bind an ovary to the side of the pelvic wall, or they may extend between the bladder and the uterus, etc. Women with endometriosis describe the pain associated with adhesions as ‘stabbing, sharp, pulling, sickening, intense and nauseating.’”
Oral contraceptives provide the correct hormones to balance differences within the body, making birth control essential to the health of women afflicted with endometriosis.
“Whereas the cause of endometriosis remains unknown, we do know that the disease is exacerbated by oestrogen. Therefore, hormonal treatments for endometriosis are designed to attempt to temper oestrogen production in a woman’s body,” Ros Wood, a long-time advocate for women’s health, wrote on endometriosis.org.
On its own, birth control is expensive, especially for high school and college-aged girls.
“Without insurance, the most reliable methods are costly – long-acting reversible contraceptives range from $500-$1,000, and the birth control pill or patch ranges from $160-$600/year,” according to the Charlotte Observer.
And of course, as the number of unwanted pregnancies grows, the current administration will only make it harder for women to take control of their bodies. Attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and ban other outlets for safe abortions also threaten the reproductive rights of women.
“During Trump’s first reckless weeks in office, he greatly accelerated the attacks on abortion rights that have already been underway for four decades—with the aim of overturning legal abortion altogether,” Sharon Smith, an editor for the IRS Review, wrote in an article.
“Women bear the emotional, physical, and ultimately the financial burden of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term,” Smith continued. “This is the reason why, when abortion is illegal, women risk their lives to have abortions, for the sake of their own and their families’ survival.”
There is still hope for the coverage of birth control in the states; however, governors and other representatives still have the power to protect reproductive rights in their own states.
“State legislatures can require that insurers cover birth control without a co-pay; four states already have such a requirement. States can protect family planning by increasing their support for these programs,” The New York Times’ Editorial Board wrote.
If Trump’s regulation remains in action, it will be up to the states to protect the rights of their female citizens.
Birth control is an essential part of women’s health, and frankly, the government has no business barring it no matter what women use it for.
People of religious backgrounds who oppose contraceptives and abortions do not have to partake in expressing their rights to reproduction, but should not restrict others from their medical rights and the ability to control their bodies.
“Sexual rights embrace human rights that are already recognised in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus statements,” Vicci Tallis, a writer for the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa, wrote.
Tallis continued and said, “They include the right of all people to have the highest attainable standard of sexual health, including the right to access sexual health care services; seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality; positive and inclusive sexuality education; respect for bodily integrity; be able to choose their partner(s); decide to be sexually active or not; have consensual sexual relations; decide when, if and whom to marry; decide whether or not, and when, to have children; and, pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.”
Compromising the rights of women not only endangers their health, but impedes on the freedoms that all women deserve in order to live a life as active and strong individuals.
Hansen Dendinger is a freshman biology major from Waxhaw, North Carolina. You can follow her on Twitter at @HansenDendinger