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The Senate Just Voted to Stop Free Birth Control

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The Senate and House of Representatives have officially both voted against keeping contraception free for women. Senators took the first step toward repealing Obamacare late Wednesday night—including voting against an amendment that would preserve the no-copay contraception law that the Affordable Care Act introduced back in 2012. On Friday, the House approved a budget blueprint passed along by the Senate that would allow the ACA to be repealed. 

This isn't totally out of the blue—after Donald Trump was elected, we knew there might be some threats to women's health care on the way. He tapped Obamacare critic Tom Price as the secretary of health and human services, and then came the news that Trump plans to push a bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding. And these Senate and House votes are startling confirmation that our predictions might indeed come true.

While in office, Obama mandated that all FDA-approved contraception (from the Pill to patches, IUDs, diaphragms, Plan B, and even some sterilization techniques) be covered by all insurance plans at no cost to those insured—even if the plan is through a religious employer that might prohibit contraception use. However, as the Senate moved to dismantle Obamacare, they struck down all of the amendments intended to protect provisions passed by the ACA—including one that would continue requiring insurance companies to cover contraceptive costs. This will leave a whopping 55 million women without no-copay BC, according to Planned Parenthood

Back in 2012 (before all BC was covered by the ACA), even with the help of insurance, contraception copays for monthly methods could total up to $50 a month, while long-term methods like IUDs would cost hundreds of dollars upfront, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute. And get this: More than 29 percent of women were using their contraception inconsistently in order to save money. Women worried about the cost of their birth control were twice as likely to use less-effective methods—like condoms, pulling out, or periodic abstinence—simply because they're cheaper, according to Guttmacher. Just take a sec to let that sink in; women are risking pregnancy and their health because they can't swing the cost.

Taking away copay-free contraception is sad and scary news for women's health. (Combine that with the fact that we're in a women's health desert, and it's a recipe for disaster.) But before you freak, take action. There's still time to go get a long-term birth control method, like an IUD, which could keep you protected for three, five, or even 10 years until free BC is (hopefully) restored. (Read up: Here's what you need to know about IUDs.)

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