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Campus groups react to Trump’s latest rollback of birth control mandate, reaffirm commitment to providing access

< the Trump administration’s recent roll back on the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers provide birth control coverage to women, the College and student organizations on campus reaffirmed their commitment to providing access to birth control.

Natalee Johnson, Advanced Practice Nurse and Coordinator of Medical Services at SHAC, explained the changes, saying that Trump “said that it is now legal for plans to refuse to cover contraceptives, or to otherwise charge for them by applying copays or deductibles.”

However, Johnson noted that the changes should not be felt immediately. “At this point in the year, most insurance contracts have been set, and I would guess that going into 2018 most plans will still cover contraceptives at one hundred percent. Contraceptive coverage is a popular benefit among consumers, but an expensive one for insurers, so I’m sure that some insurers will stop covering contraceptives as we go forward. It will fall on the consumer, you and me, to know our own plans and what is and is not covered” when the changes go into effect, she said.
According to Johnson, students with insurance through the College should see no changes in coverage of birth control. “I cannot imagine a situation where that coverage would go away for our students. [The Carleton plan] covers all contraceptive methods at one hundred percent. It is something that is very important to us and to many students, and I think the college sees the importance in that also,” she said.
If students’ insurance plans change and choose not to cover birth control, Johnson said that SHAC is prepared to offer alternatives to assist with access to reproductive rights. The Minnesota Family Planning Program “makes it possible for US citizens to obtain free birth control if they meet certain criteria, which most students meet,” according to Johnson.
“This is a program which we relied on heavily before the Affordable Care Act took place, and which we may need to rely on again, as long as it is still funded, if some of our students’ family insurance plans choose not to cover birth control. We also have negotiated low cost birth control pills, for ten dollars a month, that students can purchase out of pocket, after we have prescribed them, which would be cheaper than what the pharmacies charge,” said Johnson.

Johnson emphasized that SHAC “works closely with students to help them understand their insurance and coverage, and will continue to do so in the future, as well as help them to obtain the services they need in the most cost efficient and effective manner.”

Beyond SHAC, student organizations on campus have committed to providing students with support. While Student Wellness Advocates do not directly deal with prescription birth control, SWA Alexa Botelho ’18 said that “the Office of Health Promotion will continue to distribute non-prescription contraceptive methods such as external and internal condoms regardless of Trump’s mandates. If access to prescription birth control is affected by Trump policies, it seems probable that the demand for condoms will increase, so we will strive to meet that demand to ensure that students have access to contraceptives.”

At an October 15th training for abortion doulas by the Carleton Advocacy Network of Doulas (CAN-DO), the organizers of the group noted an increase in participation and interest after the election of Trump.

“Winter term was the biggest training we have ever had, and I think [Trump’s election] just really inspired people to become active,” said Sarina Chaiken ’18, co-founder of CAN-DO.

“People realize exactly what’s at stake and how important this work is, and so we’ve ended up with a lot of very committed, knowledgeable and empathetic people who have showed up,” said Kate Hoeting ’19, a co-leader of CAN-DO. 

Rinya Kamber ’18, co-founder of CAN-DO, said that the group collaborates with other campus organizations decimated to reproductive justice, such as Student Advocates for Reproductive Choice (SARC), which is Carleton’s chapter of NARAL-Pro Choice Minnesota.

“We feel that now more than ever, it is time for people to take action at the grassroots level because we no longer feel that we can put our trust in the administration. We needed to take this matter into our own hands, and provide support for actual patients,” said Kamber.

“I feel really lucky and privileged to go to a school like Carleton, where our graduates will potentially end up in positions of power. If they are trained in this pro-choice paradigm and have this doula mindset, they can really make systematic changes in whatever fields they go into, even if it’s not politics,” she added. 

Amirah Ellison ’18, member of CAN-DO, said that the recent actions by the Trump administration “reminded me that I need to be extra diligent in what I’m doing, extra loud, and to keep myself updated and informed on changing policies.”

Ellison added that “support for reproductive health gets even worse as you intersect different identities. So, as a black person, it’s important for me, in my community, to talk about reproductive justice. Not only is it not talked about in a general sense, but also there’s a lot of scientific racism and a lot of history behind reproductive justice in the black community, specifically, that isn’t remembered, but that does have to do with how black women are treated in hospitals today.”

“I’m also a Muslim, so there’s a lot of information out there that is inaccurate in the Muslim community––in the Muslim-American community, even,” Ellison continued. “People who don’t have adequate access to healthcare, low-income women, women who are in abusive relationships, all of these things have to do with reproductive justice.”

CAN-DO stated that in the upcoming term, the group will attempt to expand their reach, and offer advocate training specifically targeted to all genders. Kamber added that “change starts with everyday people. We’re not going sit around and wait for policymakers to pass legislation that we believe is ethical.”

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