Birth control emerges as rallying cry against Trump’s pick for health secretary

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Researchers drew ire after they terminated a study on a promising male birth control treatment. Here's what their decision means for the future of male birth control. Photo by applezoomzoom/Adobe

Reproductive rights activists are pushing back on remarks that Rep. Tom Price has made about access to birth control. Photo by applezoomzoom/Adobe

Reproductive rights activists opposed to Donald Trump’s nominee for health secretary have hit upon a potent rallying cry: the cost of birth control.

The campaign stems from a remark made back in 2012 by Georgia Congressman Tom Price, who this week was nominated to run Trump’s Department of Heath and Human Services. Back then, Price had joined other Republicans in a fierce fight to block an Obamacare mandate that insurers give women free access to contraception.

Price said the rule was unfair to religious employers who considered it immoral for birth control to be covered under the health plans offered to their workers — and also, wholly unnecessary, because no woman he knew of had ever had trouble getting contraception when she needed it.

“Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one,” Price said at the time, in an interview that was captured on video and has been widely circulated.

Now that Price stands poised to shape health care coverage for millions, both activist organizations and individual women are answering his “bring me one” challenge — by bringing him their stories.

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His 2012 comment “very simply and clearly shows that Congressman Price is really out of touch with the reality of women’s lives,” said Amy Friedrich-Karnik, senior federal policy adviser for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Or as NARAL Pro-Choice America spokeswoman Kaylie Hanson Long put it: “That is completely contrary to the real and lived experiences of women prior to the Affordable Care Act.”

Birth control costs range widely, but generally run anywhere from $120 a year for the least expensive pills to $1,000 for an IUD. A survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood in 2010 found that 1 in 3 women had struggled to pay for prescription birth control at some point in their lives.

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“This notion that there’s no woman being left behind — when I watched the video, I actually yelled out to the computer, ‘I could show you a thousand [women],’” said Dr. Geetha Narayani Fink, an OB-GYN who’s a member of Physicians for Reproductive Health.

Price has tried to overturn the Affordable Care Act as a congressman, and if confirmed, he’s expected to implement the Trump administration’s plans to dismantle the health care law. But Price wouldn’t even need to repeal the legislation to get rid of no-cost birth control: That would just require a bureaucratic maneuver, without a vote in Congress, though that would likely take months.

Price’s voting record raises other red flags as well for reproductive rights advocates.

Last year, the Republican lawmaker (who is also a former orthopedic surgeon) voted against legislation that would protect employees from being fired for using contraception or seeking an abortion. And in 2013, he voted for a budget resolution to be amended so that insurers could opt out of covering birth control for women for religious reasons.

Price has also been a tenacious opponent of abortion and has co-sponsored legislation that would assign “personhood” status to a fetus.

Neither Price’s congressional office nor Trump’s transition team returned requests for comment.

Despite widely acknowledged problems with Obamacare, the contraception mandate has proved to be a boon for many women.

A study published last year found that the share of insured women who got hormonal IUDs without any copays more than doubled, to 87 percent, between 2012 and 2014. Another study last year estimated that women covered by one private health insurer saved an average of $248 for an IUD and $255 annually for contraceptive pills after the rule went into effect.

And a study published in September found that Midwestern women who did not have to shell out copays for birth control were more likely to use it — and to choose more effective methods — than those who had to pay out of pocket.

This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Dec. 2, 2016. Find the original story here.

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