Wait, So What’s Going On With Birth Control + The Affordable Care Act?

Birth control isn’t just about sex — access to it also helps women’s health overall and drastically improves the economy.

The Affordable Care Act is working to make birth control available to all women, but some companies are fighting this and it’s being taken to the Supreme Court. To better understand what’s going on with birth control, the ACA and SCOTUS, the Center for Reproductive Rights is doing a Twitter chat Monday at 2 p.m. EDT to answer your Q’s. To get involved, make sure you use the hashtag #ReproChat.

Earlier this week I spoke with Julianna Gonen, the director of government relations at the Center for Reproductive Rights, about how to get birth control under the ACA, how to end the stigma against it and how access to birth control would actually save us billions of dollars.

ACT: Before the chat happens, can you give us the basics on what’s going on with birth control and the ACA? Can you clear up some common confusions and misinformation?

JULIANNA: Absolutely. The Affordable Care Act — which was signed into law by President Obama more than three years ago and later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — did a whole host of things to improve the standard of health care in the U.S. Among those historic advances was a huge expansion of copay-free preventive health care services for women, including things like contraception, cancer screenings, HIV and STI testing, well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, and prenatal and post-partum care and counseling.

But since the preventive services benefit under the ACA went into effect, more than 40 private, for-profit companies have filed lawsuits to try to deny their female employees access to those birth control benefits in their employee health plans, claiming that it somehow violates the company’s religious beliefs.

On March 25, U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments from two of those companies: Hobby Lobby, a national arts and crafts [store] chain, and Conestoga Wood, a cabinet company based in Pennsylvania.

But for-profit companies are no more entitled to deny women insurance coverage for birth control than they are entitled to dictate how employees can spend their paychecks or what they can do on their days off.

Contraception is not your boss’s business — it’s your business. No employer should be able to impose their own personal religious beliefs on your health care decisions.

ACT: How will the ACA help women with getting birth control?

JULIANNA: Nearly all women have used some form of birth control in their lives. In fact, 99% of all sexually active women in the U.S. use birth control at some point during their reproductive years.

So by having access to co-pay free contraception in their health plans, millions of women will be able to afford the birth control that is right for them. Women won’t have to choose between paying for contraception and other living expenses like rent, groceries or child care.

To find out about your own benefits and coverage for contraception in your health insurance plan, call the member services number on the back of your health insurance card. If you don’t have health insurance, be sure get over to www.healthcare.gov before March 31st to see how you can get covered!

ACT: How can people stand up for their right to use birth control, especially with all the recent attacks against women’s reproductive rights?

JULIANNA: If you agree that contraception is your business and not your boss’s, you can stand with us in Washington on March 25 outside the U.S. Supreme Court! And if you can’t make it, you can add your name to a list of supporters that will be featured on a banner we will fly at the rally.

It’s incredibly important to tell your elected officials — from your governor and representatives at the state capital to your senators and representatives in Washington — that you think that any attempt to roll back the clock on our reproductive health and rights is unacceptable. For more information on what you can do right now, visit Draw the Line.

ACT: Can you explain why better access to birth control is so necessary for women and how it’s tied in to women’s rights and overall health in general?

JULIANNA: Every woman — no matter where she lives or how much money she has — deserves a basic standard of reproductive health care.

Access to contraception when she needs it enhances a woman’s opportunities for education and employment, and further supports her ability to provide adequate care, nutrition, housing, and education for her family. She succeeds in the job market and gets more education.

She’s healthier, as are her children if she chooses to have them. She has more independence, dignity, greater equality and participates more freely in society.

Contraception empowers women. It prevents millions of unintended pregnancies and saves billions in health care costs across the globe every year. Expanded access through the Affordable Care Act is a tremendous step forward that we can all rally around.

Photo: (Getty)

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