The Affordable Care Act required all new private healthcare insurance plans to provide contraception coverage, with no out-of-pocket cost to consumers. The rule as devised struck a compromise because religious groups did not want to pay for their employees’ birth control. Thus, certain religious employers could opt out of paying for that coverage, but women were still able to get the benefit from the insurance company separately.
Last month, President Trump reversed the ACA requirement. Without digressing into the President’s well-documented misogyny, his action is the latest in another too often seen throughout history that oppresses women.
Because of this roll-back, the “opt-out” by an employer is no longer limited to religious employers, meaning now, any employer can just drop the coverage, leaving these previously covered women subject to large increases in their insurance costs. In attempting to justify this move, Trump ignorantly offered that “moral” objections were the same as religious ones.
The President had no legal authority to expand the opt-out on the basis of moral objection. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows for religious exceptions to certain laws, within limits. The Act does not provide for “conscience” or “moral” objections. This new rule thus places a boss’s beliefs over a woman’s health and says to employers “we’ve got your back if you want to discriminate.”
Even worse, the new rule, beyond allowing an employer to refuse to pay for this coverage, allows insurers who simply claim they object on moral grounds to cut the coverage in the plans they sell. Yes, that is what you just read. Insurers can decide not to offer coverage for birth control pills. Such a decision could create an extraordinary access gap in many areas of the country.
Historically, men were asses (which does not mean now none are). There are hundreds of theories about why men oppress women. Most agree that the early cave-era activities of men as the hunters and women as the gatherers and workers in the home, including child rearing, cooking and cleaning, are the early roots of this oppression. Men became the ones to use weapons, capture and breed animals, and accumulate property. The “rush” from these activities became infectious and was only done by men, because women were consumed in the day-to-day activity of being involved in the home. Accumulating “more” set the tone to sublimate others.
The theory that men are physically stronger (and that is why they try to dominate women) is undermined by history and in fact. Men became powerful because they were out of the home dealing with others, protecting their property and learning how to take advantage, while women were tied to the home. Women supported their men in this division of labor. And for what it is worth, women are physically stronger than men: ask any woman who has delivered a child.
Throughout history men oppressed women. In Europe, the Middle East and Asia, women were unable to have any influence over the political, religious or cultural lives of their societies. They couldn’t own property or inherit land or wealth, and they were frequently treated as property themselves.
In ancient Assyria, the punishment for rape was the handing over of the rapist’s wife to the husband of his victim.
In some cultures (India and China mainly), when a husband died, wives either committed suicide (because they knew what was coming) or they were put to death.
In “enlightened” ancient Greece (where democracy was said to be born), women were not allowed to leave their homes without their husbands or a male relative.
Some cultures approved of a man beating his wife if she refused sex.
Even today there are places in the world where women are required to completely cover themselves if they go out into public.
In the United States, there was a time when women were not able to vote. Then they were not able to serve in the military. The disparity between men and women today in the United States remains in numerous arenas. Equal pay for equal work is a joke. Advancement in the workplace favors men significantly. The business world uses women as sex objects in advertising. And on and on. Even in the criminal arena women are punished more harshly. Punishment for crime, one sex against the other, weighs violently (use of word is intentional) in favor of men. If a woman did to Ray Rice what he did to his then fiancé, the woman would have been in jail.
So we come to the end of 2017 where many very powerful and well-known men are being called out for their past acts of physical and sexual assault, violence, intimidation, and pressure against women, and despite the appearance of societal outrage, men continue to oppress women. This latest act by Trump, who again has a history of action opposite that of respect for women, is discrimination at its finest, despite his shallow explanation that moral objections are important.
Some guy who owns a hardware store no longer has to give his female employees health insurance that covers the cost of birth control pills because he thinks it is wrong for unmarried women to have sex. This guy probably bragged to his buddies about his high-school “conquests.”
Discrimination is an insidious form of oppression.
It is estimated that 55 million women were helped by the ACA rule requiring insurance coverage for birth control pills. Taking away this insurance coverage is not just discriminatory, it is oppressive. Recall Fred coming home, shouting “Wilma,” giving her a turtle and telling her to make soup. Barney was raising his son right: Bam! Bam!
The outrageousness of this reversal of policy is even more worrisome because of its ignorance. Women use birth control pills for more than just birth control. Birth control pills reduce menstrual pain, regulate menstrual cycles and fight chronic acne. They reduce the rate of abortion. Another lesser but highly important use of these pills is to control cysts that develop in the ovaries, which fill with blood. If the ovaries explode, they can lead to death. The birth control pills are a necessary medication for millions of women.
There are many who recognize this effort for what it is: oppression.
Lawsuits have been filed by numerous states and organizations against the Trump administration. The ACLU and state attorneys general are behind these suits. Other groups, representative of the diversity of those in opposition to this rule change, are The Center For Reproductive Rights, Yale Law School students, students at Notre Dame University, the National Women’s Law Center, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Planned Parenthood. The lawsuits and the press from all opposition corners all cite several reasons for their opposition, including discrimination, preventing women from being able to get “essential care,” the illegal separation of church and state, Trump’s procedural violation of the required procedures for releasing rules, and prior Supreme Court decisions addressing the ACA contraception mandate.
Two things are certain. Regardless of the outcome of these lawsuits, women will persevere. They are stronger.