Celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month Amidst a War Against Women's Bodily Autonomy

10/11/2017 07:03 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2017

I received my first Triple Negative Breast cancer diagnosis in June 2008 and my second in 2013. In 2008 I experienced quite a bit of anxiety about the cost of treatment. The looming expense of lab work, mastectomy, reconstruction and subsequent chemo treatments overwhelmed me. I soon realized that the medical insurance that I received through my employer would largely cover the treatments that I received. Exactly five years later, I developed another primary Triple Negative tumor in the opposite breast. Once again, I had few out of pocket expenses. I was lucky, to say the least, to have an employer sponsored health insurance plan. However, the arrival of Breast Cancer Awareness month makes me wonder what would have happened if I did not have healthcare insurance.

Many people who depend on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, are concerned about what might happen if it is repealed or ended by executive order. There is clear agreement between political parties that certain aspects of the ACA are problematic. The cost of individual plans are rising. Insurers are pulling out of program exchanges leaving limited options for those in need of insurance. The Hill reports that funding for ACA advertising is at a mere 10% of what it was in previous years, funds allocated for ACA application assistance has decreased by 41 percent, and the enrollment period is 50 percent shorter. Initial reports suggest that 2018 rates will increase by double digits. The GOP wants to replace the ACA with The American Health Care Act (AHCA). However, it is unclear if current subsidies would be available to insurance purchasers under the new plan. Pre-existing condition coverage, sufficient funding for Medicare and Medicaid programs, and continued coverage for adult children are not guaranteed under the proposed plan.

Whether or not Obamacare will be repealed is only one of the many issues that will directly affect women’s healthcare. The current administration supports allowing educational institutions and employers to eliminate birth-control coverage for religious or moral reasons. This type of legislation does not take into account women’s health issues that have little to do with preventing a pregnancy. For instance, many women take birth control for a variety of reasons, such as to manage menstrual pain, regulate periods, decrease acne, cope with depression and stem the symptoms of endometriosis. It is no wonder that when a photo that surfaced of an all male House meeting about Women’s Healthcare drew public scorn last spring.

Throughout modern history, women have always had to fight for control over their own bodies. Second Wave feminism began in the late 1950s and lasted well into the 1980s. Among other concerns, women wanted access to birth control and the right to have an abortion. By 1960, the FDA approved ‘the pill’, but doctors could not legally prescribe birth control in some states. Women wanted the government to take their concerns, as women, seriously. Eventually, the Supreme Court sided with Estelle Griswold in Griswold v. Connecticut affording married women the right to take ‘the pill’ in 1965. By 1973, as a result of the case Roe v Wade, women gained the ability to terminate a pregnancy. And because it is Breast Cancer Awareness month, it is important to note that it wasn’t until October 21, 1998 that The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) demanded that the healthcare plans that cover mastectomies must also cover reconstructive surgeries.

These are significant issues that should be discussed as we promote Breast Cancer Awareness month. With the repeal of Obamacare looming, and the restrictions set forth by the proposed AHCA, women should be concerned. The solvency of women’s rights is decreasing in this country. Some states and the government at large are cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood even though it provides other services such as cancer screenings, HIV care, and other pregnancy related services. The recently proposed Graham-Cassidy ACA Repeal Bill suggested a significant markup for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Of course, such a measure would have dire consequences for many men and women. Approximately 25 percent of Americans under the age of 65 have pre-existing conditions. As of March 2017 there were 3.1 million women in the United States with a history of breast cancer. Once diagnosed, the disease is considered a pre-existing condition. In a month when we are focused on breast cancer awareness, we should also be focused on the war rising against women's bodily autonomy as it relates to healthcare choices.

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