Fears over contraceptive access surface
Due to the decisions of President-elect Donald Trump, some Americans may potentially lose their access to contraceptives.
Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization providing reproductive and sexual health services all over the world. Bellingham’s Planned Parenthood health center is located on Ellis Street.
According to Linda McCarthy, Executive Director of Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood, most people in America have grown up with the right to contraceptives and sexual health benefits. Now, with women’s health in jeopardy, many people are shocked and worried about their future. Trump is opposed to abortion and plans on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, making it so insurance companies would no longer be required to cover full costs. However, this doesn’t mean every person would have to pay out-of-pocket for contraceptives.
Growing up Catholic in Massachusetts, McCarthy was denied birth control at the age of 17 from her doctor based on his Catholic convictions, McCarthy said.
A year later McCarthy got married and moved to Washington state and ended up at Planned Parenthood for birth control.
“It was a wonderful experience and everything I could have used at a younger age,” McCarthy said.
She then applied for an opening position at Planned Parenthood to be a secretary and has worked her way up since then. She also went to Western and got her degree in human services.
According to an interview with David Brody from Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump said “As long as they do the abortion I am not for funding Planned Parenthood … As long as they’re involved with abortion, as far as I’m concerned forget it, I wouldn’t fund them regardless.”
However, according to McCarthy, they expect to keep doors open for people who need reproductive benefits. Planned Parenthood has been around for 100 years and fully expects to continue for another 100 years, McCarthy said.
“What we hear from our patients repeatedly is they come to Planned Parenthood because they can get direct and honest answers to their sensitive and embarrassing questions, and they know they’re not going to be judged,” McCarthy said.
A common misconception about Planned Parenthood is they only offer contraceptives and abortion procedures. The organization offers a multitude of different reproductive health services, such as annual exams, pap smears, cancer screenings, HPV vaccines, breast exams, vasectomies, all kinds of birth control, abortions, hormones for transgender patients and diagnostic tests.
“We provide the full range of reproductive health care for women and men,” McCarthy said. “Whether you are insured or uninsured, we have got you covered.”
President Barack Obama signed an order ensuring entities, including Planned Parenthood, cannot be kicked out of the Medicaid program as long as they are providing legal medical services. Medicaid is medical coverage for people in poverty in Washington state, McCarthy said.
“Women want to get in quickly, they want to get in before they are afraid they are going to lose their coverage,” McCarthy said. “This is not a time to not worry, because the information that is coming out is not pretty about why the first thing this administration is going to do is attack women’s rights, and women’s health and contraception.”
McCarthy said defunding Planned Parenthood and taking away the Affordable Care Act will be detrimental to society, and offered advocating effective contraception as a solution for decreasing abortion rates.
“We aren’t going to take this standing down, our work is important and we cannot have a healthy country without women having control over their own bodies.”
“It is like a punishment to women and I don’t understand it. You would think if you are opposed to abortion, then the best way to reduce the need for abortion is to empower people to use the most effective contraceptive methods that are out there, and not to make them harder to get, but to make them easier to get in every way, shape and form,” McCarthy said.
Since the Affordable Care Act has been in place, the rate of abortions has significantly dropped because women are getting more reliable contraceptives covered through the act, McCarthy said.
“It would be a shame, and a crime in my opinion, to roll back that benefit. Everybody wins with this benefit,” McCarthy said.
With the Affordable Care Act, men and women are able to finish college and fulfil their dreams while they are coming of age, and then they have the opportunity to become a parent when they are ready by choice, rather than by chance.
For students looking to get involved, there is an Associated Students club called Voices for Planned Parenthood, or VOX, that meets regularly on campus.
“Our work is sacred and it cannot be diminished. It is worth fighting for,” McCarthy said. “We aren’t going to take this standing down, our work is important and we cannot have a healthy country without women having control over their own bodies.”
Director of Western’s Student Health Center, Emily Gibson, said the health center on campus offers similar services as Planned Parenthood.
“We offer similar services, including contraceptive education and choice, prescriptions and evaluation for contraceptive problems, IUD and implant placement, emergency contraception, pap smears and follow up of abnormal paps, sexually transmitted infection screening, forensic evaluation after sexual assault, pregnancy diagnosis with referral for obstetrical care or termination of pregnancy, management of hormonal issues like polycystic ovaries, and acute and chronic medical care for all adults, no matter the gender. We do not provide permanent sterilization here, nor do we provide termination of pregnancy,” Gibson said in an email.
This story has been updated as of 11/22. Previous versions incorrectly stated how insurance claims would be affected under a repeal of the ACA. Insurance companies would be no longer required to cover full costs, but this does not mean every person would have to pay out-of-pocket for contraceptives.