If you’re one of the approximately 43 million American women who are currently having sex but would really rather not get pregnant, or if you know, love, and/or are banging one of them, listen up: The GOP is out for your birth control.
Early last month, the Trump Administration rolled back Obama-era regulations that required health insurers to cover a range of birth control methods with no co-pay. This comes at a time when abortion rates in the U.S. have dipped to a historic low, in part due to the increased accessibility of long-acting, reversible contraceptives (LARCs) made possible by the Obama Administration’s guidelines.*
One would think that politicians who claim to be zealous protectors of the unborn would see this as good news. In a sane world, contraceptive access would be a cause that people all across the spectrum of belief on abortion could get behind. But that’s not the world we live in. Instead, those same people are trying to reduce access to effective birth control and, as a leaked White House memo suggests, promote antiquated and ineffective fertility awareness techniques like the Catholic Church-approved "rhythm method" in its place. What could possibly go wrong?
LARCs like the IUD and contraceptive implant are among the most effective methods for preventing pregnancy currently available, but their high up-front cost placed them out of reach for many people prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s birth control coverage mandate.
Without that federal guarantee, cost-sharing expectations from health insurers may begin to rise again. Employers that claim a moral objection to providing contraceptive coverage could even push the entire financial burden for avoiding pregnancy on their employees. (Curiously, I have yet to hear about any employer seeking a religious exemption for covering Viagra. Apparently, unplanned pregnancy is God’s will, but erectile dysfunction isn’t. The Lord truly works in mysterious ways.)
Folks who can’t afford it will go without it and all the abstinence-only sex education in the world will never stop people from fucking. You can fill in the blanks about what happens next.
There is not a person alive in this country who has not benefited, whether directly or indirectly, from accessible, effective birth control. From children who grew up stronger and healthier in families of a size their parents could manage and afford to men whose partners were able to avoid pregnancy to both of their advantage to the actual human women who have been able to finish school, advance in careers, and live lives free of pain and distress from the many medical conditions that hormonal birth control can treat, modern contraception has changed lives, saved lives, and dramatically reshaped how we as a society relate to and experience sex and sexuality.
Contrary to claims made by the Trump Administration in their justification for retracting birth control coverage guidelines, access to effective contraception is essential not only to women’s health but to public health in general.
Conservative stances on restricting access to contraception and abortion are not about saving unborn babies — as we’ve already established, if that were truly the case birth control would not be a controversial issue.
They’re not about fiscal responsibility, either. For every $1 we invest in publicly-funded family planning programs, we save $7.09 in Medicaid expenses that would have otherwise gone toward prenatal care, deliveries, and infant care for unintended pregnancies.*
In truth, the concern of modern Republican moralists has never been about pregnancy so much as it has been about power. Conservatives who oppose safe, legal abortion and contraceptive access aren’t so much pro-life as they are anti-sex, particularly anti-women-having-sex-for-fun-and-then-not-suffering-for-it. There is great power in pleasure, and they are afraid.
Generations of people fought — and many literally died — in pursuit of the right and ability to control their sexual and reproductive destinies. Thanks to them, many of us have grown up in a world where the power to prevent pregnancy until the time is right (or forever) has been a given. But we can’t let that privilege make us complacent.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, birth control has been there for you. For you, for your family, and for your friends, so don’t let it slip away. Speak up. Get rowdy. And while you’re at it, you might as well enjoy some baby-free sex while you can.
*Big ups to my pals at the Guttmacher Institute for these rad stats.
- Published in That's What She Said