THURAVIL: Arguments against birth control have no logical backing
Opinions Column: Sip on Your Chai
On the Oct. 6, 2017, President Donald Trump's administration rolled back yet another Affordable Health Care mandate that outlined coverage for birth control under employer-sponsored healthcare. The backwards legislative action included sweeping guidelines for employers to claim religious exemption from the mandate in the name of “religious freedom” — something which the Trump administration plans to reinstate in full. Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined in a memo sent to all federal agencies the day of the rollback, “Except in the narrowest of circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law. Therefore, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment, contracting and programming.” This attempted show of benevolence towards employers doesn’t only dangerously blur the line between the professional life and the personal life, but also unnecessarily enforces “religious beliefs” on those who need contraception for a whole host of reasons pertaining to their health and their ability to actively contribute to the workforce.
Oral contraception has gained a slightly inaccurate nickname — “birth control”. Yasmin (28), a brand of oral contraception, does much more than prevent ovaries from releasing fertilizable eggs. It regulates menstruation, decreases blood loss in those who have heavy cycles, reduces debilitating cramps and chronic menstrual pain and reduces the risk of ovarian cysts, among others. Pushback against employer-covered contraception includes arguments for the rights of business owners and employers to refuse to support “immoral” or “anti-religious” practices and activities. What practicalities these arguments don’t consider are, for example, the fact that some employees could be suffering from both chronic pain and financial instability and are unable to cover the cost of their own birth control. The humanitarian aspect of this aside, since that’s usually the last thing to be considered in backwards legislation like this, employees that aren’t in sound body and health decrease their overall contributions to the company, therefore decreasing output. Additionally, the knowledge that a particular company doesn’t cover essential services in otherwise well-covered health insurance can be unattractive to potential employees and applicants, some of whom, if hired, could be extremely valuable to the company. Allowing employers to exempt their businesses from mandates that could boost the performance of their workplaces is somewhat like self-sabotage, and in a supposedly business-centric economy, that can’t be very productive.
Aside from being somewhat of a counterproductive maneuver, in the grander scheme of things, excusing one’s business from providing birth control, and then turning around and supporting anti-abortion legislation and then once again supporting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in rolling back Title IX sexual assault guidelines and the general undoing of women’s rights is a confusing, hypocritical conundrum I, among many others, will never understand, unless I process it as a blatant attack on the existence of women and non-binaries in a public space. There’s no other explanation for this multifaceted attack on reproductive rights by the current administration. Not having any kind of access to the science that enables women to be functioning members of society and actually contribute to the workforce is more dangerous and terrifying than we realize — this is one of many pieces of social-issue legislations that attack women and minorities, and hand more and more power to those already in dominant positions. Coupled with the expansion of the Mexico City Policy in January, this rollback is especially harmful — in protecting the “religious” freedoms of a few employers, this legislation viciously attacks women of all races, social classes and public presences. According to Fatima Goss Graves, CEO and president of the National Women’s Law Center, “Today’s outrageous rules by the Trump administration show callous disregard for women’s rights, health and autonomy. By taking away women’s access to no-cost birth control coverage, the rules give employers a license to discriminate against women.” If any more proof is required apart from the more-than-adequate mountain of incriminating evidence that the current administration only cares about the special interests of a few in exchange for the lives of the majority, this is it.
The argument against birth control has never made much sense outside of the bubble of religion, especially because of the aggressive opposition to abortion and the lax and uncaring attitudes regarding sexual assault and rape, to speak nothing of consensual sex (or “immoral activities”). If no action forward is taken and things continue in this direction, Margaret Atwood may not have been too off after all, and instead of the utopia of equality and freedom that women envisioned and hoped for in the 20th century, we’ll be taking an enormous, 100-year step backwards and will have to fight once again for the rights that we thought we’d already established as essential.
Neeharika Thuravil is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in computer science and astrophysics. Her column, "Sip on Your Chai," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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