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Originally published July 11, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Page modified July 13, 2014 at 12:32 AM

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Guest: Hobby Lobby and how I got pregnant because my insurance did not cover contraception

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling makes it harder for women who are trying to avoid getting pregnant, writes guest columnist Jazmin Williams.

Special to The Times


I’VE never been ashamed to tell my story of being a young mother: I gave birth to my daughter when I was 23 years old. At that time, I was employed by a national department store.

I had gone to several clinics to try to get a contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD) but each doctor told me my insurance did not cover it. I was even denied coverage at Planned Parenthood. My husband and I were using condoms, but I became pregnant.

On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case that a closely held for-profit company with religious beliefs is not required to provide insurance coverage for certain types of birth control. This ruling is erroneous. It sends the blatant message that the freedom of speech of an employer is more valued than a woman’s right to choose. And it makes it even harder for women who are trying to avoid getting pregnant.

For people of limited means, the Supreme Court is essentially limiting birth control to just the use of condoms. That became my only option when I was denied coverage. After condoms failed to prevent my first pregnancy, I do not trust them alone to prevent a second pregnancy.

Condoms are a male-dominated form of birth control. My then-husband was able to control their effectiveness.

My local department of human services office in San Carlos, Calif., was not of much assistance either. As the head of my household, I was informed that I would have to resign from my job and end my workplace insurance coverage to access birth control through Medicaid.

I would not have been able to afford an IUD without the assistance of Medicaid. The cost of an IUD can range from $0 to $844, depending on insurance coverage. “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissenting opinion.

Maria De La Torre, a colleague who is eight months pregnant, shared her similar experience with me. When she was employed, her work insurance did not cover contraception.

Now she’s unemployed and will receive coverage for contraception because she can access Medicaid. Of course, she will already have had a child by then. And her contraception coverage will only last for one year.

“Benefits to having access to birth control leads to safe sex and pregnancy prevention,” she said.

At 4 years old, my daughter already recognizes the gender double standards and restrictions placed on girls. She once told me that she wanted to be a boy. “Boys get to do more. They’re not told that they can’t play with dinosaurs. The teachers don’t tell them to behave like little ladies,” she said. She even told this to her teachers at her private Christian school.

Now is the time to take action to promote the advancement of women and girls. I am not going to wait with bated breath for another disappointing ruling in , which would decide whether employers have to modify duties for pregnant workers.

The National Women’s Law Center and its “This Is Personal” campaign keeps me updated with current events and how to take action to protect women’s health and reproductive rights. I was able to participate in the “Join the Dissent” movement through the Planned Parenthood Action Center.

I am not going to wait around and hope that someone takes action. This reign of male-dominated birth control needs to come to an end. Women should control women’s health and reproductive rights. Not the government or employers.

Jazmin Williams, the Seattle-based founder of an urban multimedia platform for young mothers, Rouge Lioness, expects to graduate this year with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ashford University.

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