On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court ruled 7-to-2 to allow employers to cite moral objections in order to deny their employees insurance coverage for birth control. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “This Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets,” noting the government’s own projection that “between 70,500 and 126,400 women of childbearing age” will lose coverage.
This is ethically wrong for so many reasons. First, access to reproductive healthcare is a human right. People should have control over their own bodies, and, even if birth control were to serve the singular function of preventing pregnancy, it should still be provided under all employer health insurance plans, which create access for every employee regardless of their income level. All of this notwithstanding, we cannot discuss birth control as if it is solely used for the prevention of pregnancy.
For millions of women and other people with uteruses, birth control is a life-altering form of healthcare, and I’m not referring to the ability to control the life-altering decision of whether or not one has children. I’m talking about the life-altering effects that hormonal birth control can have on a person’s body.
This is personal for me. As a teenager, my cramps were so bad that my pediatrician put me on prescription painkillers at thirteen. Still anemic to this day, I remember standing on the soccer field watching blood trickle down my leg wondering how it was possible to soak through a super plus tampon as well as a maxi-pad in less than an hour. The pill turned my unpredictable, heavy, multi-week-long periods into easy five-day sessions that arrived like clockwork each month. I never took more than two Advil on the first day of each period after that.
Birth control came to the rescue again in my twenties when I became plagued by chronic migraines that manifested themselves most viciously during the week of my period. By the spring of 2018, I was struggling, becoming a shell of my normal self for a full week each month. At my doctor’s suggestion, I got a hormonal IUD that eliminated my period all together, and with it the menstrual migraines. I used to look at the calendar and dread that week of the month, rearranging plans and frantically trying to get as much work done as possible in case I had to call out sick. A 32 x 32 mm piece of plastic in my uterus that’s more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy made that all go away.