The past two years have been big in women's rights. In 2018 alone, a record number of women were voted into the House of Representatives, women of color broke records during the midterm elections, and the #MeToo movement brought considerable attention to sexual harassment and assault. And now, the focus seems to be on women's reproductive health as agencies and advocates tirelessly try to protect a woman's right to choose what is best for her body. The most recent example? Planned Parenthood in Illinois is offering free birth control for a year as a part of a new initiative.
The act, which is being funded by private philanthropy, is part of the The Access Birth Control (ABC) initiative that will be in place until 2021 in all clinics across the state, according to Planned Parenthood. Contraceptives covered, free of cost, by the initiative will include include IUDs, oral contraceptive pills, injectable birth control, vaginal rings, and condoms, Planned Parenthood said.
"Cost shouldn’t be a determining factor when choosing a birth control method,” Jennifer Welch, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said, according to CBS News. "The ABC initiative allows patients to decide the best method for them regardless of price."
Welch continued, "Increasing access to affordable and comprehensive healthcare remains our priority, despite the challenges of America’s complex health system."
The hope is that patients will now chose the birth control that is right for them, instead of the cheapest option. For instance, IUDs are among the most effective types of birth control methods, that's also reversible, yet they are often the most expensive, according to TIME.
"A lot of the time, people will get the method that’s most cost-effective rather than the method that’s best for them," Julie Lynn, Planned Parenthood Representative from Illinois explained to the Chicago Tribune. "We want everyone to have access to their preferred method of birth control without cost as a barrier."
Eligible patients include those without insurance, those whose benefits do not cover contraceptive costs, or those who are unable to afford it, according to NBC Chicago.
The helpful initiative comes at a time when the Trump administration continues to try and restrict contraceptive access and funding nationwide, according to the Chicago Tribune. But how is this still happening in 2019?
There's great disparity between the Obama and Trump administrations' outlooks at women's reproductive freedoms. Where Obama's Affordable Care Act made expanded access to no-cost contraception, according to CNN, the Trump administration has issued new rules to allow employers to discontinue contraceptive coverage on the basis of religious beliefs, along with Trump's campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, according to TIME.
Judging by the fact that IUD implants increased by 22 percent in the months following Trump moving into the Oval Office, according to the Journal of American Medical Association, fears about restrictions were already mounting.
When Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement last summer, Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh, who now sits on the Supreme Court as one of its most conservative judges, according to The Washington Post. Now that Kennedy, who often served as the swing vote in cases concerning women's rights is gone, there has been some fear that Roe vs. Wade could be overturned, according to GQ. Given the fact that Kavanaugh once called birth control pills "abortion inducing" drugs, according to CNN, women might have a legitimate reason to worry.
There has been progress towards protecting women's reproductive rights, though. Just last week, New York passed the Reproductive Health Act, which allows women to seek an abortion past 24 weeks of pregnancy, if the woman's health and well-being is in danger, or the fetus isn’t viable. The former law stated that "late-term" abortions could only be sought if the woman's "life" was in danger, according to Harper's Bazaar.
Some states, like New York, are working to put such laws in place so that if things ever change on a national level, states will have laws in place to counteract them. It's the first step of many to try and protect women's rights if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned. And Planned Parenthood's ABC initiative is just one of many that local agencies have made to help protect women's rights.
The reproductive health landscape is changing rapidly and those that are in favor of a woman's right to choose are doing everything they can to protect those rights. The best defense in this situation seems to be knowledge, and following all news regarding contraception initiatives, like this one, help those who are in need navigate these ever-changing political times.