ACA’s free birth control

This editorial first appeared in The Seattle Times.

When President Donald Trump effectively removed the guarantee of free birth control from the Affordable Care Act, he was pandering to his dwindling base and showing his ignorance about the ways contraceptives help American families.

The president claimed the new rules issued Friday that allow some employers and insurers an exemption from the ACA provision requiring free contraceptives are about religious freedom. But this move is actually about economic freedom.

Under the rule, employers now have a relatively easy way to save some money on health insurance by choosing to offer less coverage. This is a move in the wrong direction for women, their families and the economy.

As some members of Congress continue their bipartisan efforts to strengthen the ACA, they must give women back the best tool they have to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Yes, many American women can afford to buy their own contraceptives, but the ACA also provides free birth control to women who may have to choose between groceries and contraceptives.

As Melinda Gates preaches concerning the Gates Foundation’s family-planning work around the world, contraception is a woman’s way out of poverty. Young women who can avoid unwanted pregnancies stay in school, get more education plus a better chance in the workforce, and can effectively change their lives, their family’s financial situation and set their future children along a better path.

On the medical side, birth control pills do more than prevent pregnancy. More than half of women who use oral contraceptive pills do so for other medical reasons, such as managing hormonal imbalances, irregular periods and endometriosis, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization focused on sexual and reproductive health.

Unplanned birthrates have been gradually declining in the United States, mirroring a pattern of increased contraceptive use during the same period. The national teen birthrate dropped from 29.4 births per 1,000 girls in 2012, just before Obamacare went into effect, to 20.3 births per 1,000 in 2016, according to federal government data. Free birth control under the ACA has been part of the reason.

This move by the president is a mistake — medically, economically, ethically and politically. Both men and women need to call Congress and express their disapproval. 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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