Get unlimited digital access to baltimoresun.com. $0.99 for 4 weeks.
News Opinion Op-Eds

In 2014, why are women still struggling to get basic care? [Commentary]

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a troubling ruling in favor of two corporations that argued that they should not have to provide insurance coverage for their employees' birth control because of the business owners' personal religious beliefs. Effectively, employers now have the power to deny women the new birth-control benefits of the Affordable Care Act — allowing bosses to force their personal beliefs on employees and placing women in a dire position.

The Hobby Lobby decision comes just days after another blow to women's health. Last week, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law requiring protesters to stand at least 35 feet away from health centers. This decision gives extreme anti-women's-health activists a green light to use intimidation tactics and create a barrier between patients and their doctors.

At Planned Parenthood of Maryland, we are deeply troubled by the roll-back in access to reproductive care that the court's decisions represent. Bosses are now able to interfere with their employees' access to birth control. Picketers can continue to harass women seeking care, including birth control, breast health exams and the many life-saving services that women's health centers provide. It is hard to believe that in 2014 we are still struggling to provide women even the most basic health care options.

The availability of birth control has been an enormous benefit for countless women and their families — enabling them to support themselves financially, complete their educations, plan their families and control their own destinies. Many of our patients rely on employer insurance coverage to pay for birth control. This troubling ruling will now prevent some women, especially those working hourly-wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet, from getting birth control.

A 2010 survey found that more than a third of female voters have struggled to afford prescription birth control at some point in their lives and, as a result, used birth control inconsistently. This isn't surprising considering copays for birth-control pills typically range between $15 and $50 each month — up to $600 per year.

Other methods, such as intrauterine devices, can cost several hundred dollars, even with health insurance. For the first time, IUDs, which are the most effective form of birth control, are now fully covered by insurance companies without additional out-of-pocket expense. This ruling means that some women will again be priced out of affordable birth control, diminishing their ability to reap the economic, family and health benefits of contraception.

But it is important to remember that the historic birth-control benefit in the Affordable Care Act remains in place. The ruling is narrow enough that millions of women will still get no-copay birth control. For others, Planned Parenthood of Maryland will continue to be here for them.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, thanks to this benefit some 30 million women have already saved $483 million on out-of-pocket health expenses in the past year alone. Studies also show that women who receive birth control with no copay or at a reduced cost are able to avoid more than 2 million unplanned pregnancies each year — which also reduces the need for abortion. It's no surprise that the public supports the birth-control benefit by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, according to an April poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

We know firsthand that access to birth control is both a health care and economic concern for women, and we will work to make sure that women have access to basic, preventive care no matter where they live, for whom they work, or how much money they make.

As always, Planned Parenthood of Maryland will continue to be a resource for women, regardless of their means. We'll continue fighting for women's access to affordable, basic health care, no matter what.

Jenny Black is president & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland. She can be reached at info@ppmaryland.org.

To respond to this commentary, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Alito agrees: Your birth control is not your boss business [Commentary]
    Alito agrees: Your birth control is not your boss business [Commentary]

    Asking employers to pay for contraception makes it their business, along with the business of taxpayers and a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington

  • Hogan's phosphorus regulations reflect the nation's best science
    Hogan's phosphorus regulations reflect the nation's best science

    There seems to be a great deal of confusion about what Gov. Larry Hogan's Agriculture Phosphorus Initiative really contains, and I would like to clearly state the facts about how we plan to address phosphorus.

  • A code to teach by
    A code to teach by

    Do you remember your first favorite teacher? I do. She made me feel like I could do anything and that I was destined to make a contribution to this world. I mattered in her class. It would not be until almost 20 years later that I would truly understand what made her great.

  • Netanyahu wants war
    Netanyahu wants war

    The grand spectacle of a foreign leader's address to Congress by the invitation of political opponents is disturbing to say the least. But Benjamin Netanyahu's message was even more disturbing. The Israeli prime minister told the American people Tuesday that their president, along with the...

  • A lifetime spent in service
    A lifetime spent in service

    After 30 years in the Senate and a half-century of public service to Maryland and the nation, Barbara Mikulski will retire from elected politics next year. She will leave a legacy as one of the state's most admired politicians and among the most influential women ever to serve in Congress.

  • Legislation needed to protect foster kids' personal funds
    Legislation needed to protect foster kids' personal funds

    Our state foster care agencies are apparently so underfunded that they are taking resources from abused and neglected children. The agencies are taking control over foster children's Social Security benefits (when the children are disabled or have deceased parents) and using the children's...

Comments
Loading