'Trump'date: Reproductive rights issues shake up Washington

    This has been a big week for those involved in the reproductive rights debate. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Penn., has been a staunch pro-life advocate for years. The eight-term representative from southern Pennsylvania is currently a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and co-sponsored a bill that passed the House last week banning most abortions after 20 weeks.

    In a twist of irony, reporters from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obtained texts between Murphy and his mistress, Susan Edwards, which suggests he told her to get an abortion during a pregnancy scare.

    After publishing an anti-abortion statement on Facebook, Murphy received a text from Edwards: "And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options.”

    Public backlash compelled Murphy to announce he would not seek re-election. Several House Republicans pushed him to resign. Fearing the story would spark a House Ethics Committee investigation into the ways Murphy and his chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, harassed staffers in what Politico deemed Murphy’s “reign of terror,” top House Republicans convinced Murphy to resign. Murphy has since announced he will resign from Congress later this month.

    The Murphy scandal exploded days before before the Trump administration announced plans to allow employers and colleges more freedom to deny contraception to female employees based on religious or moral objections. The new rule overrides the Affordable Care Act requirement that contraception be provided to women at no cost.

    There was immediate and widespread backlash from both women’s and reproductive rights groups. Although the Department of Health and Human Services claims the new rule will leave 99.9% of women unaffected, many suggest that this estimate is inaccurate as more employers will likely take advantage of the rule.

    Universities and colleges will also have the option of denying coverage of birth control to female students if they cite religious or moral objections. Northwestern has not released a statement on the rule. Under the current NU-SHIP plan, the Women’s Health Service offers 30 types of birth control at no copay for generic contraceptive brands.

    Critics of the move stressed the impact of access to contraceptives on the decline of teenage pregnancies in the last decade — progress which would likely be hampered if women are unable access birth control at a low cost. Additionally, according to the Guttmacher Institute, restricting birth control will likely increase the number of abortions which, in 2017, reached an all-time low since the Roe v. Wade decision. To some, the move is counterintuitive for such a pro-life administration.

    Rolling back the Obama-era rule fulfills a Trump campaign promise to increase religious freedom by giving employers more leeway to make decisions based on personal convictions. Many, however, take issue with the White House’s claims that it will decrease risky sexual behavior, teenage pregnancy and abortions. Several parties are expected to file lawsuits on the basis of scientific inaccuracies and the failure to afford women equal protection among other grievances.


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