Don’t restrict women’s healthcare choices

Dean Hollingsworth / MCT

Birth control is a basic form of healthcare that benefits countless women and their families every day. Nearly all American women between the ages of 15 to 44 who are sexually active have used birth control at some time. In addition, 58 percent of those who use the pill use it for the combined effect of reducing unintended pregnancy and alleviating other health issues.

Unfortunately, some 40 for-profit companies, most of which are owned by men, are trying to take away access to this basic preventive care for women. Let me be clear: A woman and her doctor, not her boss, should decide what healthcare choices are right for her.

Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned, national arts and craft chain store, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Mennonite-owned Pennsylvania furniture company, claim covering employees’ birth control — specifically the “morning-after pill,” which they call an “abortion pill” — goes against their religious beliefs. They have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to roll back coverage.

What is especially unsettling about these cases is that the companies’ objections come from misinformation. Emergency contraception such as Plan B One-Step, or the “morning-after pill,” is, effectively, a high dose of the birth control pill that works by postponing ovulation, which prevents sperm from coming in contact with and fertilizing an egg. Calling emergency contraception an “abortion pill” is wrong, plain and simple. It is not an abortion pill.

In fact, every major medical institution, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), states that Plan B One-Step and other types of emergency contraception are forms of birth control, and they cannot induce an abortion.

If these corporations have their way, women’s health, autonomy and equality will be endangered. A ruling in favor of these companies could open the door for employers to deny women coverage for all forms of birth control, including the pill, the patch and others, if they are deemed in opposition to an employer’s personal beliefs. It could also lead America down a slippery slope of coverage being denied for basic healthcare such as vaccines, surgeries, blood transfusions or mental healthcare if an employer claimed they impinged on religious beliefs.

The fact that these corporations wrongly believe emergency contraception is a form of abortion further illustrates why decisions about medical care should be left to a woman and her doctor.

The majority of Americans don’t want to turn the clock back on women’s healthcare. Seven in 10 believe health-insurance companies should be required to cover the full cost of birth control, just as they do for other preventive services.

Birth control is basic preventive care, and like all preventive healthcare, it should remain accessible, affordable and between a woman and her doctor.

Lillian Tamayo is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast.

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