Women Are Rapidly Losing Access to Birth Control
More than 20 million women need public assistance to pay for their chosen methods of birth control. Yet, these women live in contraception deserts - geographic areas where women don’t have reasonable access to the contraceptives they need.
Since the 2010 introduction of the Affordable Care Act and its requirement that employers’ health insurance plans provide full birth control coverage, the religious right has been working in over-drive to limit women’s access. Republican lawmakers have been doing their bidding.
They’ve muddied the waters by deliberately combining the issues of abortion and contraception.
The result? More than 3 million women live in counties without a single public clinic that offers a full range of contraception. Not one clinic. And things have just gotten a whole lot worse.
Despite legal challenges, the Trump-Pence Administration’s domestic “Gag Rule,” which, in part, prevents Title X federally-funded health care providers from referring patients for abortions, went into effect July 15, 2019, disrupting basic health care for the more than 4 million people who rely on Title X for everything from prenatal care, cervical cancer screenings, and mammograms to testing for sexually transmitted infections. It’s the only federally-funded program designated to meet the reproductive health care and family planning needs of uninsured, low-income people. The move forced organizations like Maine Family Planning (MFP) to withdraw from Title X and seek other funding sources rather than deny its patients the scientifically-sound, full range of reproductive care they need. But the health of these very patients will be in jeopardy yet, if MFP, using reserves for now, is unable fund those services into the future. Health departments in states including Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington also were forced to withdraw from the Title X program for the same reason.
And the rule is poised to do even more damage by increasing the number of contraception deserts with cuts to Title X clinics whose staff discusses, performs or refers patients for abortions. Worse, the rule will redirect federal money to fraudulent, faith-based anti-abortion counseling centers that deceive women into thinking they offer total reproductive medical care.
The administration already had rolled back the Obama-era requirement that employers provide contraception coverage. All told, Trump’s policies are a recipe for countless unplanned pregnancies, lost opportunities and millions of women living in poverty.
Their only hope may lie in the new digital birth control apps that are sprouting up and providing women with access to hormonal contraception without requiring an in-person visit to a doctor or other health care provider.