If allowed to take effect, the Trump administration's birth control rules would hit especially hard in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
This piece was published by Rewire on January 28, 2019.
OiYan Poon, a former professor at Loyola University Chicago, distinctly remembers the shock and fear she felt when Loyola informed her in 2014 that it would no longer provide birth control coverage as part of its health-care plan, which covered hundreds of individuals across the campus.
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required employers to provide contraceptive coverage without a co-pay, religious nonprofits could opt out of the requirement on the basis of their religious objections. Loyola, a Catholic and Jesuit university, had decided to opt out. Loyola employees were informed that they could receive birth control coverage directly from the insurance company that provided Loyola’s health insurance, but the types of birth control that were fully covered were much more limited. Poon’s medication was not on the list of ones that were covered. This left her torn: Should she stay on the university’s health-care plan and either change her birth control method or pay out of pocket for the one she was using, or transition to her spouse’s plan?
Poon decided to stay on the university’s plan, as she and her partner chose to start a family around that time—but she continued to feel the effects of Loyola’s policies, which were influenced by its religious views. While trying to get pregnant, Poon miscarried during the first trimester and needed to have a procedure done to remove the tissue. During this emotional time, she was forced to endure repeated intrusive questions from an insurance company representative who insisted on verifying the purpose of the procedure to make sure it aligned with the employer’s coverage.
Poon’s story illustrates the harm that many women will likely experience if the Trump administration’s new birth control coverage rules are permitted to take effect. Thanks to federal judges, the rules have been temporarily blocked, but that doesn’t mean our worries are over. The administration appears more than willing to continue trying to take away our birth control access until it succeeds.
While the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby allowed privately-held companies with religious objections to refuse to cover birth control for their employees, the Trump administration’s new rules would vastly expand the number of employers that can do so. As a result, the rules threaten access to birth control for many of the 62 million people who now have birth control coverage without out-of-pocket costs because of the ACA birth control benefit. If the rules are allowed to go into effect, it will mean even less access to affordable birth control and increased health risks for women. And for women of color, LGBTQ people, young women, and immigrant women who already face health disparities and numerous barriers to accessing birth control, the risk of harm is even greater.
This is why we at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum are fighting these rules. With other reproductive justice and rights organizations, we have filed amicus briefs in cases challenging these rules to inform courts of the serious harm that these rules could cause people facing multiple and intersecting oppressions. It is vital for courts to understand that the harm will be compounded by inequalities and disparities shaped by historical and ongoing oppression and discrimination against women of color and other groups.
by the NAPAWF Legal Team
AP(Eye) on the Courts is our law blog written by NAPAWF’s legal team. The blog highlights and discusses significant legal cases and updates, particularly those that impact AAPI women and women of color regarding reproductive, immigrant, and economic justice.