The Trump administration is poised to roll back an Obamacare mandate that requires employers to cover birth control for female employees, according to a draft rule released this week.
Democratic leaders have called the move “sickening.” The American Civil Liberties Union said it would fight the rule in court. And women across the country who have come to count on being able to access a broad range of contraceptive options without a copay were outraged, taking to Twitter to share their personal stories.
HuffPost Women spoke to 12 women about how the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate has affected their lives, and the many reasons why they rely on birth control. Here are their powerful stories.
Alexandra, 31, got an IUD after being raped:
“I wasn’t on birth control when I was raped at 19. It was the scariest six weeks of my life as I waited for my next cycle. I have an IUD now, which I got 10 years after my rape when I was a staff member at Planned Parenthood. I’m on medication to treat several autoimmune disorders and cannot get pregnant.
Birth control is more than a contraceptive to me; it helped me regain control of my body after someone robbed it from me. I was able to get my IUD covered through the mandate. In three years, when I need a new one put in, I know I will not be able to afford to pay out of pocket. It would be a financial burden, but my Mirena is part of my medical treatment—just like the other medications I take.” —Alexandra Dukat, 31, New York
Anonymous, 23, needs birth control to help manage her PCOS:
“I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is an endocrine disorder that causes a host of problems, like painful cysts, weight gain, insulin resistance and diabetes, acne, exhaustion, brain fog, vitamin deficiencies, depression, anxiety, and trouble getting pregnant, just to name few. My birth control prescription not only helps keep all of those symptoms at bay, it allowed me to finish a bachelor’s degree in three years because I was able to actually function.
The day that the Obamacare birth control mandate went into effect, I cried at the pharmacy counter. I wasn’t really aware of what was happening ― I was in college, still on my mother’s insurance and was accustomed to forking over $20 of my $100 monthly grocery budget for the pill. It was such a huge relief to know I would be covered at no cost. I am worried now, knowing that as I search for jobs in the post-grad world, that I could wind up in a similar situation ― or worse. I hear people say, ‘Well, you shouldn’t go to work for a company that wouldn’t cover your birth control at 100 percent.’ As if every person in the country gets a million options for employment. As if this won’t turn into a slippery slope of non-religious employers opting out of the mandate just to cut costs.” —Anonymous, 23, Texas
Danielle, 26, needs birth control to get out of bed and function:
“I have been on birth control since age 16 due to incredibly painful heavy periods and ovarian cysts. The pain was so terrible that a couple days every month I would be bedridden. The paramedics even had to come to my home because I would often hyperventilate from the electrifying pain and pass out.
With birth control pills, my pain is almost entirely gone, and so are my cysts. I can participate in life. Birth control lets me rock my career, explore and try new activities and travel the world with my love—plus, I don’t want kids. Not now, not ever.”—Danielle Chandler, 26, California
Anne, 40, needs her birth control to be covered or she’ll have to have a hysterectomy:
“I was grateful for the coverage mandate when I began taking birth control pills while undergoing infertility treatment. Before two separate egg retrieval operations, I needed to take the pill to prevent natural egg release. Infertility treatment is extremely expensive, and we were desperate just for that little bit of financial relief. We were already extended, and it was just a bit more that we didn’t have to take out in a loan.
While our attempts to have a baby were ultimately unsuccessful, my doctor is currently considering birth control pills to help manage an issue with recurring uterine fibroids. Without coverage, I will likely have to resort to a hysterectomy as I cannot afford additional monthly medical expenses.” —Anne Hunter, 40, Illinois
Katrina, 35, takes birth control to lower her cancer risk:
“I’m a BRCA carrier, like Angelina Jolie, who lives in fear of ovarian cancer. If a pill means that I can lower the chances of meeting the fate of my family members, I want that pill. I took it for 10 years and have also used an IUD. I also recently had my tubes removed. All of my birth control choices, from the pill to surgery, were covered by my insurance.
The idea that my BRCA mutation, which I may have passed on to my three daughters, could already be considered a preexisting condition is stressful enough without knowing that the one thing that is non-invasive and can help reduce their risk can be taken away as well.” —Katrina, 35, New Jersey
Kelsey, 24, needs birth control to function and she can’t afford $100 a month:
“I’ve been on birth control since I was in 8th grade. When I got my period, I bled for almost two whole weeks every month and remember having constant spotting. Schools only were allowed to administer so much ibuprofen, Tylenol before I was turned away and was eventually sent home because I couldn’t sit upright in my desk chair.
I’m now 24 years old and have never stopped taking birth control. I have an active sex life with my long-term boyfriend. We are both college grads with crippling amounts of student debt and rely on my birth control being free every month. We don’t want to have to decide between $100 for a prescription or $100 for food for the month. I’m scared. I don’t want my coverage of birth control to disappear. Will I be able to continue working if the unbearable cramps return with the two-week periods? I don’t know—and I don’t want to find out.” —Kelsey, 24, Kansas
Lynnsey, 25, needs the NuvaRing to manage her endometriosis:
“I rely on contraceptives to manage my endometriosis. After complications and a surgery to remove an ovary, I’ve finally found a doctor who knows how to keep my symptoms at bay, and that includes taking birth control.
Without the coverage mandate, I wouldn’t be able to afford the medication that prevents my endometriosis from getting worse and damaging other organs. I currently use the NuvaRing, which would cost around $130. I would not be able to swing that much each month.” —Lynnsey, 25, Wisconsin
Devina, 23, uses birth control because she never wants kids:
“I’m 23 years old and have always known I never wanted kids. The free birth control my employer’s health insurance provides makes that happen. My mother, who was not so fortunate to have easily accessible birth control, had me at a young age and raised me on her own and went through struggles I will never know to ensure she could not only provide a promising future for me, but for herself as well (she got a Ph.D. in math).
With the current contraceptive mandate, I know my reproductive future will go exactly the way I want it to, and that I can stay as happy in life as I am right now. Before, I had to pay a $40 co-pay every month. I could afford that, but other women cannot.” —Devina Alvarado-Rodela, 23, Arizona
Nicole, 28, worries she won’t be able to afford another IUD:
“I started taking pills I believe when I was 13 to track my periods and make sure they didn’t interfere with swim meets. My periods meant horrible cramps, so knowing what meets had conflicting dates with my cycle was really, really helpful.
Eventually, I switched to an IUD, which was paid for in full by my insurance. I need to replace it next year, and I’ll admit I’m a little nervous—I’m not sure how much a replacement will run me. My fiance and I have talked about it and I’ve agreed to go back on the pill if that’s more within our price range. While I’m sure we can afford some form of birth control, I’m sad that price might mean limiting some of our options.” —Nicole, 28, Florida
Anonymous, 23, got better birth control through the ACA:
“I’m young. I work three jobs and can barely make ends meet. Having a baby now would ruin me financially, probably for the rest of my life—not to mention how it would impact that child. I rely on birth control because I don’t think I should have to take a vow of celibacy just because I’m not financially stable yet.
Before the ACA, I was on the cheapest generic birth control I could get—it cost me about $10 a month out of pocket. After the election, I scheduled an appointment to get an IUD and it’s looking more and more like I made the right decision.”—Anonymous, 27, Missouri
Mandie, 31, needs birth control to help with PMDD:
“I depend on birth control to help with my acne, to combat PMDD (which is an awful, super-sized version of PMS) and to curb cramps. I already pay about $30 a month out-of-pocket on other prescriptions, so it’s really nice that this has been free and available to me. The kind I take isn’t cheap—well over $50 a month without coverage. Without insurance, I’d never be able to afford it.” —Mandie, 31, Wisconsin
Sarah, 29, already has three kids and doesn’t want another:
“I choose to use an oral birth control pill because I currently do not want to have another baby (I recently had my third child) and I do not want to get an abortion, though I am pro-choice. I’m fortunate that the contraceptive coverage mandate doesn’t affect me, because my medications are fully covered under military health care. Unfortunately, that is not an option for everyone.” —Sarah Peachey, 29, currently based in Germany
Accounts have been edited and condensed.
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