In a controversial move, the Trump administration fulfilled yet another campaign promise by offering a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive care mandate on Friday, Oct. 6.

Effective immediately, the rollback allows all insurers, including employers, to exempt themselves from the Obama-era contraceptive care mandate — where insurers were required to carry at least one form of birth control without co-payments to clients — on grounds of “religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

However, Princeton students on the University’s Student Health Plan will be unaffected by the newly relaxed mandate. According to a memo published by University Health Services about its SHP on March 15, the “University does not plan to make changes to the Plan fees or coverage” for the 2017–2018 plan year.

The SHP was updated in 2014 to include “elimination of out of pocket expenses for certain contraceptives and related devices” as per the ACA.

Concerns about the new rules, however, still reach within the Orange Bubble. On behalf of Princeton Students for Reproductive Justice, Vice President of Internal Affairs Alice Longenbach ’18 issued the following statement:

"Princeton Students for Reproductive Justice is dedicated to sex positivity, sexual and reproductive health education, and pro-choice politics. We strongly condemn the Trump administration’s attack on birth control coverage, a basic health care upon which almost all American women will rely at some point in their lives."

Longenbach also expressed concerns about life after Princeton for women in the working world. “Any woman … employed by an employer who now can use this rule to choose not to have their health insurance cover birth control [will have] a very big problem if they can’t afford to just pay out of pocket for their birth control,” she said.

Princeton Pro-Life, a campus group dedicated to pro-life politics, does not take an official stance on contraception. “Our main focus is on abortion,” Princeton Pro-Life co-president Ally Cavazos ’19 said. Cavazos further noted she thinks contraception is something that’s particularly divisive because she has seen studies that have pointed to increasing contraception availability for women leading to lower abortion rate in some instances.

“I’ve [also] seen studies that said the opposite, where providing free condoms … has actually been linked to more unintended pregnancies among women and more abortions,” she said. “Many of the institutions that are in support of this rollback do hold a pro-life position, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it works the opposite way around, where people that hold the pro-life position are in support of the rollback.”

Moreover, the birth control pill has a variety of uses outside of pregnancy prevention. According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, oral contraceptives provide protection against “ovarian and endometrial cancers, benign breast disease, pelvic inflammatory disease requiring hospitalization, ectopic pregnancy, and iron-deficiency anemia,” among other benefits.

“So many women in this country rely on birth control for any of a variety of reasons, so this is a really big change … especially for low-income women who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford birth control,” Longenbach said.

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