The Center and a coalition of reproductive health advocates delivered over half a million public comments opposing the Trump administration’s new birth control rules.
On December 5, 2017, the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with more than a dozen leading reproductive and civil rights organizations, members of Congress, and allies delivered over half a million public comments on the vital impact of contraception coverage on women’s lives. Delivered to the Health and Human Services Department, the comments—collected from individuals across all 50 states—demonstrate the widespread opposition to the Trump administration’s new birth control rules allowing virtually any employer or university to refuse to cover contraception for their employees or students on moral or religious grounds. When we called on supporters to share their birth control stories for the public comment submission, the response was tremendous. The Center alone received nearly 100,000 messages, out of over 500,000 for the coalition, which included organizations such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. On the final day of the public comment period, our coalition held a rally outside HHS. Several women read their personal stories aloud to drive home the dangerous effect Trump’s new rules would have on women’s lives. Representatives Judy Chu and Jan Schakowsky also spoke out in firm support of reproductive health access. We heard from women like Eden Wales Freedman of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who uses contraceptive pills to prevent painful cysts from forming and rupturing in her ovaries. Before the Affordable Care Act, which guaranteed women coverage for birth control with no copay, Eden worked for a religiously affiliated high school and college that denied her birth control for “religious reasons.” Unable to afford the medication out of pocket, she went off the pill and consequently had to have invasive surgery to remove dangerous cysts that had formed. Since the passage of the ACA, her birth control has been covered by insurance and she hasn’t had any health problems. However, as she currently works at a religiously affiliated university, she worries that her coverage will be stripped away again, putting her health in danger. Sarah Kelly from Highland Park, New Jersey, spoke of needing an IUD to prevent her having another high-risk pregnancy. She has a two-year-old adopted daughter. Before the adoption, Sarah had lost three pregnancies. The day after she signed the custody papers her doctor told her, “You need to get on birth control today. The last thing you need right now is another uncertain, high-risk pregnancy. You need to parent that little girl in your home.” Ashley Gray from New York, New York, started using birth control at age 15 to combat debilitating migraine headaches associated with her menstrual cycle that kept her from school for days at a time. This allowed her to focus on her education and attend college. (Ashley is also a state advocacy advisor at the Center.) Beyond health reasons, commenters also noted how contraception has been pivotal for giving women the ability to control their lives and futures, including pursuing their educational and professional goals. One anonymous commenter reported how grateful she was to be able to take birth control to finish her doctoral degree without an unplanned pregnancy. Noting the discriminatory nature of denying women contraception, she said:
Women like me should not have to choose between being married or in a relationship and working toward a career. That’s not something men have to do. Without family planning through modern birth control methods, women would be left behind.
Women like this across the country are standing up with us to fight back against the Trump administration’s unconscionable new birth control rules. We are committed to challenging these rules and any other attempts by the administration to roll back women’s health and reproductive rights. In addition to collecting thousands of stories for the public comments period, we’ve filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the rules. We are also working hard in support of the Protect Access to Birth Control Act, new legislation that would repeal the new rules. We will use every tool available to protect access to contraception and block any attempts to push vital health coverage out of reach.