Essay by Jessica Grossman, the CEO of Medicines360 and an obstetrician-gynecologist.
By now, many will have heard the Trump Administration has issued two new rules that would let any employer decline to provide contraception coverage to their employees, based on a sincerely held religious or moral conviction. It would also allow insurers to refuse to cover contraception in the same way.
Advocates and activists have taken immediate action to counter these rules. Lawsuits have been filed, petitions circulated, grassroots campaigns organized — and more. I’ve been grappling, as I’m sure many have, with the question: what’s the most effective role I can play in this fight?
It could push women and their doctors to base their contraceptive decisions on factors that shouldn’t be involved, like how much medicines cost. It’s important to ensure women’s care decisions are patient-centric and based on clinical concerns first and foremost, including sound evidence, careful weighing of the benefits of medicines for patients, and other factors that are best handled between women and their doctors.
That’s where these rules could have a troubling impact. We all want to know that medical guidelines are based on the best possible evidence, right? Well, we know two things based on years of accumulated research data: while approximately half of American pregnancies are unintended, greater access to the full range of contraceptive options has helped reduce this rate.
It’s counterproductive to pull back access and risk the gains we’ve made towards women living their best and fullest lives. Access to contraception and family planning counseling supports appropriate birth spacing, which in turn helps improve health outcomes for women and infants. The costs of a backslide in unplanned pregnancy rates would be profound: our health system would be forced to bear more financial costs, while children, women, families and communities would become less secure.
Access to contraception helps women attain higher levels of education, more economic success and healthier families.