Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

What I’m Doing to Keep Birth Control Free in the Face of the GOP Health Care Bill

June 14, 2017

By Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, as published by Teen Vogue, on June 14, 2017.

The summer after I graduated high school, I worked in an abortion clinic in Washington, D.C.

This was a year before Roe v. Wade, and abortion was still outlawed in states throughout the country. Many women still had to travel far from home for safe, legal reproductive health care.

I used to drive our patients from the airport to the clinic and back again. I still remember the fear in the eyes of many women as they tried to leave the recovery room too early because they wanted to get home as quickly as possible. Their parents or husbands or bosses had no idea they were there. Abortion was still something that was whispered about — and anti-women laws made it far more dangerous than it should have been.

After Roe v. Wade, I remember thinking, Well, at least we’ll never see that kind of inhumane treatment of women in America ever again.

But unless Americans — especially young Americans — rise up to stop President Trump and his allies in Congress, I’m afraid we could be heading back to those bad old days.

We’re already seeing the Trump administration take some big steps to limit the rights of women to control their own bodies.

The new House health care bill, which passed this spring, aims to defund Planned Parenthood and the vital health care it provides. I’ve made clear that if Trump signs the bill into law, I will challenge it in court.

And right now, Trump’s team is considering a new rule that would allow any company to drop coverage for birth control — a cruel and unnecessary rollback of common sense policy.

I don’t need to tell you that access to affordable birth control is not a trivial issue. The pill can cost up to around $1,200 per year. If you’re earning minimum wage in New York, that’s about the equivalent of a full month’s pay.

So it’s no surprise that before the Affordable Care Act’s free contraception mandate, more than half of women under age had been through times when they couldn’t afford birth control.

Before the Affordable Care Act’s contraception rules went into effect, about 20% of women paid out of pocket for oral contraceptives. Now less than 4% do, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, the National Women’s Law Center reported that American women now save roughly $1.4 billion per year on oral contraceptives — and more women now have the financial freedom to choose the birth control that’s right for them, like an IUD.

If you care about women’s autonomy, if you care about preventing unplanned pregnancies, protecting cost-free access to birth control is a no-brainer.

I won’t sugarcoat it — these rights are under attack. But we can fight back. In my state of New York, I’ve introduced a bill that would require all health plans to provide cost-free contraceptive coverage — no matter what Washington does. It would also mandate that health plans cover emergency contraception and male contraception.

States have the power to make a real difference, and New York isn’t alone. A number of states have taken similar action.

So get on the phone. Call your state senator. Call your governor. Call your state attorney general. Tell them to ensure anti-choice leaders in Washington can never take away your access to affordable contraception. States have the power to protect you, even if the federal government won’t. Demand that they stand with you and fight for your rights.

There are many people in Washington who want to take us back to the pre-Roe days. But there are allies in every state ready and eager to fight. Find them. Join them. And together, we can protect the rights of all women to the reproductive health care they need.