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Birth-Control Advocates: Trump's Policy Restricts Women, Not Religion

Congresswoman Athena Salman and other experts discuss Trump's birth control policy at a Planned Parenthood press conference.EXPAND
Congresswoman Athena Salman and other experts discuss Trump's birth control policy at a Planned Parenthood press conference.
Lindsay Moore
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Two weeks ago, Murphy Bannerman was diagnosed with endometriosis.

After a year of excoriating pain and erratic bleeding, surgeons cut into her lower abdomen and found tissue growing outside of Bannerman's uterus. A diagnosis more than 5 million American women are living with.

She was left with a choice. She could either receive a hysterectomy at 25, forfeiting the option to have children, or continue taking birth control to keep her hormones level and the pain at bay.

Bannerman is one of 1.1 million women in Arizona who will be affected by the Trump administration's most recent order to allow employer's to determine the fate of their employee's contraceptives.

The religious-liberty directive issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week lifts the obligation for employers to prove religious freedoms are being violated by following through on the Affordable Care Act mandate for birth-control coverage.

“What we’re not talking about enough is women’s reproductive health," Bannerman said. "We tend to pin these debates between being pro-choice or pro-life and the conversation is much more than that.”

This free pass for discrimination is also likely to reopen the debate about discrimination toward the LGBTQ community based on religion — a controversy Vice President Mike Pence was harshly ridiculed for when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as governor of Indiana.

Arizona's Planned Parenthood representatives organized a press conference Tuesday morning with State Representative Athena Salman, D-Tempe.

Salman promised to follow the lead of states like Nevada, New York, California, and Oregon and introduce legislation that would protect Arizona women against this new policy. Washington state took it a step further and has joined the ACLU in filing a lawsuit against the new birth-control rule.

“Since other states are taking the lead and taking this issue on, there is absolutely no excuse for our state representatives, our state senators, and our governor to not fight for women amidst the Trump administration’s unprecedented attack on women in our country," Salman said.

Public health officials and researchers have stated that the Trump administration's continued war on women's health care could be counterintuitive to its conservative ideology.

For examples, officials point to the 51 percent drop in teen pregnancy over the last decade. Even more impressive was the historic 9 percent decrease in just one year, thanks in large part to the ACA mandate.

This dramatic rollback was a clear ploy to Trump's socially conservative base, like those at the Center for Arizona Policy. The advocacy group promotes the values of life, marriage and family, and religious freedom, according to the website.

In a news release, the organization said it agrees with Sessions' issued guidance.

"This guidance is a great victory for religious freedom — a fundamental freedom enshrined in our Constitution and expressly protected in numerous federal laws," the statement said.

Trump has tried to please the pro-life sector, but Pence has been at the helm of the anti-abortion crusade since he began his political career.

However, restricting birth control will likely increase the rate of abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The research and policy organization estimated that Planned Parenthood alone averted 140,000 abortion procedures in 2015 by offering contraceptive services to its patients.

Similarly, 2017 saw the lowest rates of abortion since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized the procedure in 1973.

To reverse these preventive care measures could also reverse this progress, Jodi Liggett, Arizona Planned Parenthood vice president of external affairs, said at the press conference.

“How can an administration that claims to be pro-life do the one thing that is certain to increase the abortion rate?" Liggett said. "They’d have to be crazy, right? Or, incredibly cynical and willing to sacrifice women and children’s health in order to satisfy their ravenous and extremist base.”

Economically, this could also set the work force behind.

During the press conference, Liggett noted that one of the greatest economic booms in history came after women joined the workforce. Today, women comprise an estimated 47 percent of the U.S. labor force.

By increasing the limitations on family planning, women will be put in a bind. Bannerman, who works as a field organizer for Central Arizona Sustainable Economy, sees this firsthand with the families she works with.

“We’re not living in 1950s America," she said. "Both parents have to work. It’s not a choice about whether a woman wants to work at this point.”

Beyond family planning, a limit on birth control also hurts those like Bannerman who use the hormone drug as medicine to improve her quality of life — and work.

“There’s also the question of, 'If I am in too much pain that I can't work anymore, how would I even take care of children in the first place?'" Bannerman said.

Unfortunately, though, Bannerman feels these concerns fall on deaf ears. With very few women within the Trump administration, these concerns just aren't raised, she said.

“There’s just not enough thought put into it," Bannerman said. "Honestly, it’s because they’re not going to be affected. This isn’t going to hurt them in any way.”

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