I was in court in Indiana last month, explaining to a federal judge that the Trump-Pence administration's rules that would allow employers and universities to use religion to deny employees and students access to birth control violate religious and reproductive freedom.
The clients Americans United represents with the National Women's Law Center and the Center for Reproductive Rights in the Irish 4 Reproductive Health v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lawsuit were at the top of my mind --courageous University of Notre Dame students who have lost access to contraception because of these rules and a secret backroom settlement agreement that the administration negotiated with Notre Dame.
But I also couldn't help thinking about another college student whose health, education and professional goals were undermined by a university that didn't support her reproductive rights. That college student was me.
More than 10 years ago, just a few months into my first year at the University of California at Davis, I learned that I was pregnant. It was my first time away from home, and I was receiving full financial aid. Further complicating my situation, the dorm where I lived would not house pregnant and parenting students. I couldn't afford to take care of a child while attending school, let alone pay for off-campus housing too. So I chose to have an abortion --a decision I don't regret.
I was not the first, and surely wasn't the last, student to face financial insecurity because of a pregnancy. Currently, one in four undergraduate students are parents, and the unintended pregnancy rate is highest among 18--to 24-year-olds. And even though I decided to end my pregnancy, I believe universities should support students who choose to become parents. No one should have to choose between a pregnancy and a place to live or the education of their dreams.
My experience at UC Davis also affirmed for me the vital importance of access to affordable birth control. I started college before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed. Prior to that law, most health insurance, including my own, charged hefty copayments for contraceptives. With the Women's Health Amendment to the ACA, Congress recognized that contraception is critical to women's health and equality and that no woman should be deprived of control over her body because of her income.
We should always be free to decide for ourselves if, when and how to start a family. Birth control allows us to...