Shortly after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, a Republican-controlled Congress got to work. In his first action as president, Trump signed an executive order setting in motion the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
During his presidential campaign in 2016, Trump criticized Obamacare on Twitter calling it a “total disaster.” He promised to repeal and replace it if elected. The executive order directed federal agencies to minimize the economic burden of the program, but didn’t specify how.
Obamacare was signed into law in 2010 and upheld in the Supreme Court two years later, aiming to provide coverage for those who lacked it. In addition, the law required a range of preventative care services to be included in insurance plans at little to no cost.
These FDA-approved preventative services include methods and devices like diaphragms, birth control pills, IUDs, Plan B, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling, according to HealthCare.gov.
A 2016 Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation report shows that under Obamacare, about 9.5 million women uninsured are estimated to have gained coverage.
Issues surrounding Obamacare have resulted in conservative criticism of its policy and questioning of its constitutionality.
Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based chain of craft stores owned by a Christian family, objected to Obamacare’s contraceptive provision. Company owners claimed that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Obamacare “burdens the exercise of religion.” A Supreme Court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby also opened others to seek exemption from the rule, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Scott Spitzer, an associate professor of political science at Cal State Fullerton, said that conservatives find fault with the ACA and its provision concerning contraceptives and abortions. If health care is mandatory, companies aligned with a particular faith should be able to opt out of certain offensive aspects of the law, conservatives say.
“So when religious freedom comes into conflict with access to health care, those are the two kinds of conflicting values and its hard to decide which is more important,” Spitzer said.
The conservative base that surrounds Trump argues over the restrictions Obamacare imposes and its necessity to be provided cost-free.
Vice President Mike Pence, who attended the March for Life in Washington in January said “life is winning again in America.” Pence, who introduced a bill titled the Prohibition Act in 2011, aimed to cut family-planning funds from reaching Planned Parenthood or other organizations that perform abortions.
Tom Price, Trump’s pick for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said in an interview that Obamacare “has the power to be able to determine what is the definition of health care and health coverage for you and your family, me and my family and every single American and that’s simply wrong.”
Shana Charles, an assistant professor of health science at CSUF, has co-authored an analysis based on a bill proposed in California entitled SB 999. The proposed bill gave women more access to birth control methods by providing a yearlong supply of birth control pills. Charles found that it led to more self-advocacy for women and reduced unintended pregnancies.
“Yes, health insurance companies do end up paying a little more for pills, but society as a whole pays less cost and there are huge benefits,” Charles said.
The Trump administration could privatize health care, allowing companies to opt out of cost-free preventive care. It could gut funding toward facilities that provide these measures too, but no actions have been taken yet in those regards.
“I think (women) are being affected by scare tactics from the left. Trump’s not going to take away anyone’s birth control. He’s not going to go into CVS and say ‘No, no more on the shelf guys! No more pills, no more, all of this stuff has got to go.’ It’s unrealistic and ridiculous,” said Christopher Boyle, junior and president of the CSUF College Republicans club. “There’s a difference between wanting to take away contraceptives and disagreeing over the way it should be paid for.”