Fifty-three years ago today, the Supreme Court made it clear in Griswold v. Connecticut that the right to make private decisions about birth control is fundamental and protected by the U.S. Constitution. The Court initially applied this right to only married couples, but extended it to individuals in 1972’s Eisenstadt v. Baird.
It’s shocking that over a half-century later many people are still unable to make decisions about their birth control without interference from employers, universities, and health insurance plans.
Every week, the National Women’s Law Center hears directly from people across the country who are not able to get birth control. A recent story featured Amber who wanted to use birth control following a devastating miscarriage. But the religiously-affiliated university where she worked denied this coverage for its employees. Amber* and her husband struggled to afford the $600 upfront fee to cover the cost of an out-of-pocket IUD. The specifics of Amber’s situation may be unique, but her story is not an anomaly. Across the country, people need birth control —and they can’t afford to wait for it.
In October 2017, the Trump-Pence administration announced two “interim final rules” of startling breadth that would allow nearly any employer, university, or health insurance provider to deny insurance coverage for birth control for virtually any reason. Although federal courts have blocked these rules temporarily, the administration is fighting to make them permanent. If this happens, millions of people across the country could be denied insurance coverage of the birth control they need. Without insurance coverage, they would be forced to use less costly, less effective methods or forgo birth control altogether. This would disproportionately affect people of color, who, because of systemic barriers, are disproportionately low-income and face worse outcomes in health care—including unintended pregnancy and worse maternal mortality rates.
Just last week, the National Women’s Law Center filed an amicus brief alongside the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and SisterLove, Inc., which was joined by 40 other organizations, in response to the administration’s appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The brief outlines the enormous harm the restrictions would cause people nationwide.
The vital right guaranteed by Griswold long ago is under serious threat. And if the Trump-Pence administration gets its way, the religious beliefs of employers, universities, and health insurance plans will override this fundamental protection and take away your right to decide when and where to use birth control.
*Amber’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
Gretchen Borchelt is the vice president for Reproductive Rights and Health at the National Women’s Law Center. Views expressed her are her own.