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Since 2009, the birthrate among young women in Colorado has plunged more than 50 percent, offering would-be mothers a greater chance at building a better life before starting a family. The Trump Administration could be bringing this progress to a screeching halt following his most recent policy change. The President successfully took away the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate, which had previously made it mandatory for employers to offer birth control to their employees for no cost, just over a week ago.
The current presidential administration’s actions contradict progress made in the number of unintended pregnancies nationwide. Abortion rates in the United States reached an all-time low in 2014 at 14 percent. This was only three years after the implementation of the ACA contraceptive mandate.
This provision in the ACA has allowed 55 million American women to receive birth control. Trump justified jeopardizing their cost-free contraceptive methods out of concern for religious groups. In his administration’s notice on the reversal of the contraceptive mandate, they noted, “the government’s legitimate interests in providing contraceptive coverage do not require us to violate sincerely held religions. We do not possess interests that require us to violate sincerely held moral convictions.”
Prior to Trump’s birth control rollback, 200 employers had opposed the ACA’s contraceptive mandate in court because of their religious beliefs. These employers represent only a fraction of the 165 million women in the country. This reveals that Trump’s belittling of the contraceptive mandate is quite unrepresentative of the American people as a whole, and biased towards religious practices.
Lawsuits have already been filed to block Trump’s actions by the attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healy, and the attorney general of California, Xavier Becerra. Their stance is that Trump’s actions violate the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from performing actions based out of respect for an establishment of religion.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan praised the rollback on free birth control by saying the president’s new rules are “a landmark day for religious liberty.” However, this “religious liberty” does not justify the burden being placed on women who could have previously depended on their employer’s health insurance for birth control.
The reversal of the contraceptive mandate will almost certainly have detrimental effects on unplanned pregnancies, and an especially large impact in the poorest areas of the country. In Colorado specifically, half of all first births among women in the poorest parts of the state occurred before age 21. In 2014 that age changed to 24. The three-year difference may not seem significant, but it is. It allows young women even more time to attain a degree in higher education or place themselves in a worthy job market. This shows that free birth control can make a substantial difference to women’s lives in ways not seen at first glance.
Furthermore, taking away free birth prevention methods could have a serious affect in the already unfair cases of rape victims. According to the National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, “rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency.” On a national level, pregnancy associated with rape occurs at a five percent rate, and an overwhelming 32,000 pregnancies are estimated to be the result of rape annually. A rollback on the contraceptive mandate will contribute to unwanted pregnancies in situations in which women had no choice.
Not only is Trump’s rollback on cost-free birth control biased towards religious groups, but it also takes away a gateway to a better life for American women. The ACA contraceptive mandate made it easier for women to choose when they would like to have a child. This was a promising measure, considering that almost half of the 6.6 million pregnancies in the United States every year are considered unintentional.
Spencer Reed can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @sbreed96.