Three weeks ago, the Trump administration weakened the rules that protect women, effective immediately. By rolling back birth control coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act, non-profit religious organizations, such as hospitals and higher education institutions, are now able to reject contraceptive coverage all together. As a result, students at universities like Loyola University-Chicago and Georgetown University, for example, are now at risk of losing student health insurance coverage of birth control, which will make it much more difficult for many individuals to access it.
In a feeble attempt to justify its decision, the Trump administration asserts that most birth control options are inexpensive at only $50 per month. Retail prices vary greatly, but even an additional monthly cost of $50 could cause great strife for students. During a time when a majority of students struggle financially, this might mean a choice between birth control and essentials like food, books, and rent. Some of the most effective methods, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), cost women without insurance coverage between $600 to $1,000 up front. This is prohibitive for many women, and particularly college-aged women.
The potential harms of the new regulations to roll back family planning, for many, are personal. I use a non-hormonal IUD called Paragard because my body cannot physically handle hormonal birth control. Without insurance, the price of this IUD is an estimated $778 (not including any service charge or copays I would have to pay for the insertion and follow-up visits). At 22-years-old, receiving a bill of this size upfront would have been disastrous for my finances, leaving me with no other choice but to live without birth control in order to avoid debt. Studies show that with birth control coverage, especially long-term contraception like IUDs, rates of unintended pregnancies decrease significantly. For various medical and personal reasons, there are countless women like me who need broader access to birth control.
This rule is the latest example of how the Trump administration has increasingly sought to regulate access to public goods and services that are critical for everyone, but particularly for women. As a young woman in college living month-to-month on part-time paychecks, I would have been left of out of this part of the health care system had it not been for the Obama-era policy to include preventive services. We should not settle for a health care system accessible only to those who can afford to pay. As young people organizing on our college campuses and in cities across the country, we need to hold our governments and universities accountable and demand access to the goods and service that enable us to take care of ourselves and excel in school and in life.