October 1, 2020

SEX ON THURSDAY | Politics and Birth Control: What You Need to Know

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Dear Cornelia,

Can you please explain to me what’s going on in the news? Is President Trump going to limit my access to birth control? Do I need to stock up before the election? 

-Politically Pressed


Hello My Dear Politically Pressed,

Right now may feel like a scene right out of The Handmaid’s Tale. So much is out of our control! Let me start by clearing things up for you, which I hope will ease your mind.

First of all, Trump himself cannot “limit your access to birth control.” Right now, insurance companies are required to pay for contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare or ACA). The Affordable Care Act also allows you to stay on your parent’s insurance plan until age 26 and get free mammograms, among many other things.

Right now the Affordable Care Act is under pressure, which means your access to birth control may be under pressure. But not from Trump. The future of the Affordable Care Act lies in the hands of the Supreme Court. In fact, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the ACA exactly one (!) week after the election. However, the results will likely not be announced until the spring of 2021— the end of the Supreme Court’s session. Let me say that again: The status of your insurance-covered contraceptives will not change until this spring at the earliest. And no guarantee. T-God! So no, you do not need to “stock-up” on birth control. In fact, I’m not even sure that’s legal.

Now, as you know, with the tragic passing of Cornell’s very own Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg ’54, Trump will likely replace her seat in the court with conservative Amy Coney Barrett. It’s still up in the air whether or not Barrett could hear arguments on the ACA this November. But things are looking promising for Amy Coney Barrett, and not so promising for the Affordable Care Act.

Let’s just say hypothetically the Affordable Care Act is struck down. What will happen? If the ACA contraceptive coverage is changed or eliminated, the requirement for the coverage of contraceptives will fall onto the states. Unfortunately, only 28 states require insurance plans to cover contraceptives. Another issue: only 59 percent of workers are covered by state-regulated plans. The other  61 percent are insured by private plans, and the law will no longer require private plans to cover contractive costs. It is likely that without the ACA, millions of women will lose birth-control coverage.

To answer your question, your access to birth control will depend on what happens in the Supreme Court. Then, it depends on what state you live in and what your plan looks like.

The grim reality is that next spring, contraceptive coverage is likely to look much different. But it won’t go away completely. Look for insurance plans that include contraceptive coverage. Ask your employer. Don’t fret: There are other options for birth control. Planned Parenthood here in Ithaca can provide birth control options for next to nothing.

The best way to protect your access to birth control is to vote. The representatives we elect this fall will either be involved in defining the ACA or building new legislation to replace it. Let’s make sure our leaders know what we want.




Cornelia is a student at Cornell University. Email [email protected] with questions you wish to submit to the author. Ask Cornelia runs alternate Sex on Thursdays this semester.