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The Trump Administration Is Waging a War on Birth Control

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 6 days ago Robert J. Walker
WELLINGTON, FL - APRIL 14: Madison Tolchin leaves after having a health checkup at a Planned Parenthood clinic on April 14, 2017 in Wellington, Florida. President Donald Trump recently signed legistation that allows states to withhold federal money from health care providers that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has approximately 700 health centers across the country that serve 2,470,000 and provide services for preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women's health services. © (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) WELLINGTON, FL - APRIL 14: Madison Tolchin leaves after having a health checkup at a Planned Parenthood clinic on April 14, 2017 in Wellington, Florida. President Donald Trump recently signed legistation that allows states to withhold federal money from health care providers that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has approximately 700 health centers across the country that serve 2,470,000 and provide services for preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women's health services.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

If all goes as expected, the Senate will soon take another crack at "repealing and replacing" the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. But unless something unexpected happens, the Senate leadership will fail once again to garner the necessary votes. That defeat, if it occurs, will be an important victory for reproductive health advocates, as millions of women would end up paying more for contraceptive services under the Senate bill.

But whatever happens in the Senate, the war on birth control is far from over. On the other side of the Capitol, a House Appropriations subcommittee is working hard to limit access to contraceptives. And, this time around, chances of success are higher. What birth control opponents failed to do by failing to repeal Obamacare, they may yet succeed in doing through the appropriations process.

From a reproductive health standpoint, the Trump administration's proposed budget was an unequivocal disaster, but the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills now starting to work their way through the House are not much better, and with respect to one program, Title X, the House position, at present, is a whole lot worse.

The Trump administration's proposed budget would: 1) deny any federal funding to Planned Parenthood for any contraception – or other preventive healthcare services – they might provide to women; 2) eliminate funding for comprehensive sex education curricula that discuss contraceptive options; and 3) eliminate all funding for international family planning assistance. The administration's proposed budget, however, stopped short of defunding Title X.

After returning from the July 4 recess, the House is back in business. A House Appropriations subcommittee has proposed defunding Title X, which provides critically needed support to family planning clinics in this country, including those operated by Planned Parenthood. Such action would deny family planning services to the low-income women who are served by it. Researchers for the Guttmacher Institute recently reported that Title X clinics in 2015 provided contraceptive services to a total of 3.8 million women.

As expected, the House subcommittee also proposed, as the administration requested, to defund comprehensive sex education programs in our schools and replace them with funding for "abstinence only" programs. Such a step, if ultimately approved by Congress, would represent a major setback and could easily retard, or even reverse, the progress that we are making in reducing the rate of teenage pregnancy.

Looking ahead, if the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare ultimately fails in the Senate, birth control opponents have a fallback plan. The Department of Health and Human Services is working on an "interim final rule" that would revise Obamacare's contraceptive coverage mandate to allow employers to remove or modify contraceptive coverage from the health insurance policies they offer their employees.

If adopted, this proposed rule change would make it very easy for employers with moral or religious objections to contraception to remove coverage without any requirement to notify the government. The new rule, if finalized, could be challenged in the courts, but birth control supporters lack the votes in Congress to block its implementation.

All this begs a question: What in the name of health care is wrong with birth control? The Trump administration's position on abortion is harmful to women, but it is, at least, clear. What's not clear is why President Donald Trump and his allies in Congress are so determined to slash birth control coverage.

Two months ago, a White House executive order cut off all funding for the United Nations Population Fund, a primary provider of contraceptive supplies in many developing countries and refugee camps. On the domestic side, the woman appointed by Trump to run Title X turns out to be an outspoken critic of birth control.

Anti-choice politicians want to curb abortions, but cutting support for contraceptives is absolutely the worst way to pursue that goal. It's not rocket science. Deny access to modern methods of contraception and there will be an increase in both the number of unintended pregnancies and the number of terminated pregnancies.

The Guttmacher Institute has run the numbers on both Title X and U.S. programs providing family planning services and information to poor women in developing countries.

Here's what they found. If the president and Congress eliminate all funding for Title X, the number of abortions will increase by nearly 280,000 a year. Cut off funding for international assistance, and the number of induced abortions increase by 2.3 million. In addition, Guttmacher estimates that 11,000 women in developing countries would die from unsafe abortions in developing countries.

Under anyone's moral reckoning, how is that pro-life? Cutting support for birth control coverage – however it is done – is just plain wrong. The effort to repeal and replace Obamacare may soon be over, but when will the war on birth control end?

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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