Should Birth Control Be Free?
The right to free birth control may not be a right for long.
A report from The Hill on Tuesday says President Trump's administration is thinking about cutting the rule that requires insurance companies nationwide to pay for birth control at no additional cost to health care plan holders.
The rule was introduced by former President Obama's Affordable Care Act, of course, but Republicans won't have to repeal Obamacare (which will likely take long AF) to kill the birth control mandate, The Hill reports.
Contraception is included on a government-defined list of 11 preventive services for women's health. Because of the way Obamacare was constructed as a law, insurance companies are required to cover the services on the list.
Now that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in the hands of the Trump administration, however, the department could simply pass a new regulation that removes contraception from the list.
The head of HHS, former Congressman Tom Price, opposed the birth control mandate since Obamacare's inception. Other Republicans have long been against it, too, and their reasoning is predictable.
First, conservatives are always the most likely to ask, "how do we pay for this stuff?" which inevitably means scrutinizing measures like the contraception mandate, questioning whether it's absolutely necessary and worth the cost.
Secondly, there's an argument that the mandate violates religious freedom, by requiring business owners to pay for health plans that cover birth control, even if those owners disagree with the mandate on moral grounds related to their faith.
Both of those arguments beg an obvious question: Is birth control really so important that the government should require it be free?
Some politicians in favor of free birth control and preventive care passionately argue it should should. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, a Democrat representing New York, is one of those politicians.
She proved it when she defended Obamacare on the night Republicans began the process of tearing the ACA down.
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) January 21, 2017
Those who think like Gillibrand will likely argue three key points in favor of increasing access to free birth control.
First, access to birth control allow women to decide when they'd like to start families and avoid unintended pregnancies.
Second, preventing those unintended pregnancies means protecting the health of women and children.
That is a notion supported by the Institute of Medicine, a body that was formed by President Obama's HHS to study what preventive health services are most needed by women.
Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.
Third, increasing access to free birth control lowers other social and monetary.
According to the Washington Post, 68 percent of unintended pregnancies across the US end up getting cover by Medicaid, which is funded by tax dollars. Ultimately, this means "unwanted pregnancies cost tax payers $21 billion each year."
Increasing access to birth control, however, has helped lower those costs in states like Colorado, which saved $5.68 for every $1 it spent to supply birth control are part of a program between the state's government and a private funder.
In addition, the teen birth rate decreased by 40 percent over a four-year period, as announced by the state's Department of Public Health and Environment announced.
These three points combine to form the core argument in favor of maintaining free contraception: It gives women and families greater agency in deciding when they are ready, willing and able to start families, which in turn protects the health of women and unborn children.
In the long run, the cost of BC is worth the benefit of lowering tax dollars for unwanted pregnancies.
In the long run, the cost of that protection is worth the benefit of lowering the taxpayer's commitment to paying for unintended pregnancies, all while the national abortion rate continues to drop.
Still, Tom Price and the Trump Administration are likely to not consider providing birth control, particularly in the way Obamacare mandates.
And while they do that, it's clear what the other side will keep repeating: The benefits outweigh the costs.