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Letter: Court joins an unrelenting assault on women's health

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have unbelievably given unprecedented support to the unrelenting assault on women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care, compounding more than 300 like-minded bills introduced at a state and federal level this year.

ACOG President John Jennings responded, “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is profoundly disappointed in today’s Supreme Court decision, which allows employers to impose their religious views on their female employees’ health care. This decision inappropriately allows employers to interfere in women’s health care decisions. The value of family planning – including contraception – has been clearly demonstrated. The ability of a woman to time and space her children reduces infant, child, and maternal morbidity and mortality, and can lead to more optimal health outcomes for mother and for baby.”

The U.S. has the highest unintended pregnancy rate among developed countries at one in two, and nearly 50 percent of these women were using contraception, most commonly condoms or oral contraceptives. Condoms work 70 percent of the time. Birth control pills are very effective but only if you can afford them consistently. This has become more challenging despite mandated insurance coverage. Insurance premiums and deductibles have increased, so the cost is often still out of pocket.

Long-acting reversible contraceptives, like IUDs, are an important solution for family planning, given the one-time cost, and the morning after pill backs up the failure of condoms and other contraceptives. Neither is an abortifacient, as attested to by ACOG to the obviously oblivious five justices of the Supreme Court. Medicine is meant to be practiced in private offices, and not in court rooms, state halls or board rooms.

Sincerely held religious beliefs by a corporation have trumped their employees’ access to comprehensive health care, regardless of the lack of scientific support. The implication is a moral superiority over that of their female employees, who aren’t even paid a “living wage.” This so-called “pro-life” stance wholly ignores the economic assault on the increasing volume of working poor women in this country. Women earn only 77 cents of the dollar their male counterparts earn. Pile on inadequate child care access (even if you can afford it), and underfunded early childhood education programs and health care especially here in wealthy North Dakota. Frost this with employers’ unwillingness to accommodate pregnancy-related needs among minimum wage employees: bathroom breaks, stools at a counter, adequate access to hydration and nutrition, and high-risk pregnancy needs.

You have a cake labeled second-class citizen meant to “nourish” the mothers of our children. When will the women of this country, and those who love them, give voice and, more importantly, vote? These elections matter.

Fiebiger, M.D., is a Fargo obstetrician. She holds a masters of public health and is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.