Does anyone really support the notion that decisions about women’s health should be made by their employers? Unfortunately, the Supreme Court does.
The court’s recent decision regarding contraception says that employers have the right to refuse to include birth control in their insurance plans based on any religious or moral objection.
In short, employers may now deny contraceptive coverage to women currently paying for and covered by insurance plans.
Leaving aside the harmful effects of the court’s ruling, let’s be clear about the central role contraception plays in the lives of Americans.
Research suggests that nearly all women who have ever had sex have used a method of contraception at some point in their lives. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Americans — regardless of race/ethnicity, region of the country or political affiliation — view birth control as a basic part of women’s health care. Clearly, for the vast majority of people in this country, there is nothing controversial about birth control.
As a result of the Supreme Court ruling, more women in Missouri will have to pay for, or pay more for, their preferred method of birth control.
Not surprisingly, cost is a major determinant of whether women use contraception and what type of method they choose.
IUDs and implants are the most effective methods of contraception available, and they cost hundreds of dollars.
The Guttmacher Institute estimates that women without insurance pay more than $1,000 to start using one of these methods — this is almost one month’s salary for a woman working full time at the federal minimum wage.
The ruling from the court is particularly troubling because it comes at a time when so many Missourians are struggling to make ends meet. In fact, more people are deciding to delay having children because of financial concerns brought on by COVID-19. This seems to be leading to an increased demand for birth control.
For residents of Missouri who may now be struggling to get the method of birth control that is right for them, including the uninsured and the underinsured, there is help. As the Supreme Court and some employers seek to limit women’s access to quality contraceptive services, The Right Time is expanding the ability of women to determine if, when and under what circumstances to get pregnant.
The Right Time is an initiative based in Missouri that is empowering individuals to take control of their health by improving information about, and removing barriers to, quality contraceptive services.
The effort is led by my organization, Missouri Family Health Council, and is an initiative of Missouri Foundation for Health. Better and more consistent use of contraception leads to fewer unintended pregnancies.
Fewer unintended pregnancies help women achieve the goals they have set for themselves and improve maternal and child health.
The Right Time is partnering with health centers across Missouri — six new centers in 19 locations were just added this month — to provide access to the full range of contraceptive options and free or low-cost birth control to those who need it.
The Right Time partner network now totals 12 health centers in 32 locations statewide, and more are expected to be added in the future.
Importantly, the cascading effect of the court’s decision will have a disproportionate impact on women of color and those of limited economic means.
The Right Time health centers remain dedicated to reducing health inequities by removing the barriers that keep too many women from getting the contraceptive services they want and deserve.
Employers don’t make decisions about health issues like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or well-women visits. They shouldn’t have a role in decisions about birth control, either.
Women know what is best for their unique circumstances and have the right to make their own decisions about health care. The quality of contraceptive services people receive should not depend upon where they work.
Michelle Trupiano is the executive director of Missouri Family Health Council Inc., which champions access for every individual to culturally sensitive, quality, sexual and reproductive health education and services.