As residents of the UK, it’s easy for us to take free birth control for granted.
Thanks to the NHS, we can cherry pick the best contraceptive method for our bodies from a whole range of options, including the pill, the coil and the implant, under the guidance of free medical advice. Whatever we choose is then provided to us free of charge, alongside any checkups or follow up appointments we might opt to have.
There is no financial burden involved, and we never have to worry about the stress of saving up hundreds of pounds to replace our coil or replenish our pills.
So take a moment to consider women living in America, who face a very different reality when it comes to securing birth control – and who might soon find their access to these essential products blocked even further.
According to a draft regulation document leaked to Vox earlier this week, Trump is planning to roll back the Obamacare birth control mandate by making it legal for any employer to refuse to provide birth control on the grounds of moral or religious beliefs.
If the regulation is approved, employers could begin pulling birth control coverage from their health insurance packages, forcing women to pay out of pocket to obtain their contraception.
The current regulation, instated by Obama in 2012, rules that the majority of employers have to offer a health insurance plan that includes access to a range of contraceptive methods.
The regulation, called the Affordable Care Act, has made contraception affordable for millions of women over the last five years. Before it came into effect, over 20% of women were paying out of pocket for contraception. A few years later, this number had shrunk to just 4%.
However, despite a survey showing that 77% of women and 64% of men were in favour of no-cost contraception, the regulation has remained extremely controversial. This is especially true of religious business owners, alongside some universities and hospitals, who protested having to provide insurance coverage for contraception.
Religious houses of worship were therefore exempt from providing the coverage under Obamacare, while some religiously affiliated hospitals and universities were also given relief from the ruling.
However, the Trump administration’s changes would make it legal for any employer to pull the coverage from their plan on moral or religious grounds, meaning women would be left scrambling to cover the costs themselves.
Speaking to Vox about the draft regulation, Tim Jost, a health law professor at Washington and Lee University, said, “It’s just a very, very, very broad exception for everybody.”
Talking about employers, he added, “If you don’t want to provide it, you don’t have to provide it.”
Terrifyingly, the draft regulation is now in its final stage of review, with The Office of Management and Budget considering whether to make the ruling official. If it is passed, it will come into immediate effect.
You can read the full document leaked to Vox here and we will refresh this page as soon as updates are available.