What the New Senate Health Plan Means for Your Birth Control

July 13th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

The latest draft of the Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is missing a significant requirement for women. Under the law, also known as Obamacare, birth control is covered by insurance companies with no co-pay, except for religious employer-based coverage. However, the new draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Bill, reportedly based on a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), would allow insurance companies to offer plans that do not cover birth control or other preventative health services for women.

A 28 day pack of birth control pills.

The previous draft of the Senate proposal allowed states to waive the requirement for certain types of preventative care, but birth control was still mandated, according to Vox. 

With this latest draft, insurance companies would be able to offer plans without birth control coverage so long as they offered at least one that met the requirements of the ACA. That means people would have to pay more for an insurance plan that covers birth control, or spend more out of pocket buying it themselves.

The BCRA would also pull federal funding from Planned Parenthood, an important resource for low-income men and women who need preventative care and birth control options. Republicans say they want to pull funding from the organization because 3 percent of its service are abortions. However, the 1976 Hyde Amendment prevents federal funds from being used for abortion services, and the Kaiser Family Foundation notes that Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health services and cancer screenings to 2.5 million women.

One in three low-income women surveyed also said they received birth control from Planned Parenthood or another community health center. 

No-cost access to contraceptives can decrease abortions and unwanted pregnancies. 

Birth control pills

Research suggests that no-cost birth control, like the coverage provided under the Affordable Care Act, prevents abortions. An analysis by Guttmacher Institute released in June, found that investments in family planning access would stop 67 million unwanted pregnancies and 36 million abortions across the globe.  

A 2012 study by doctors from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis looked at 9,256 adolescents and women considered at risk of an unintended pregnancy. The study was conducted before the ACA rollout. The researchers found that when women had access to no-cost birth control, unintended pregnancies and abortions dropped significantly. The abortion rates of study participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 people, far below the national rate of 19.6.

"We noted a clinically and statistically significant reduction in abortion rates, repeat abortions, and teenage birth rates," they wrote. "Unintended pregnancies may be reduced by providing no-cost contraception and promoting the most effective contraceptive methods."

By effectively driving up the cost of birth control, lawmakers would only increase the number of unwanted pregnancies.

RELATED: How Repealing Obamacare Could Hurt Women