A breastfeeding expert digs into the potential ACA repeal.
As a breastfeeding expert, doula and advocate for women’s health, I’m dismayed about Trump’s treatment of women. He boasts about sexual assault, signs away reproductive freedoms, and tells female staffers how to dress. So it’s no surprise he is likely to undermine women’s health rights and protections -- and that includes breastfeeding. Working moms and all who care about breastfeeding: here’s what you need to know about Trump’s threat to breastfeeding rights.
Trump has promised to repeal Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act) without promising anything in its place. But it’s thanks to the ACA that most insurance providers are currently required to provide breastfeeding equipment and counseling for pregnant and nursing women. At Breast Start and Boober, I provide breastfeeding support to new moms every day, and many of them can come to me only because the services are covered by their insurance. So I'm all too aware of how much the access that they get through the ACA matters and how big of a difference it can make. You can read exactly what the ACA provides to support breastfeeding here.
But Trump’s threat to repeal Obamacare means a potential loss much broader than coverage for breastfeeding counseling. “The ACA also includes provisions providing breastfeeding moms at companies with 50 or more employees with a reasonable break time to pump in a private location that is not a bathroom,” says Alex Berke, an associate at Berke-Weiss Law PLLC. Berke spearheads the firm's Pregnancy Project, including classes on workplace rights for the modern mom.
“Any repeal of the ACA would take [workplace breastfeeding] rights away and leave women vulnerable to being denied health insurance due to their pregnancy or cesarean recovery being considered a pre-existing condition,” Berke says. “Women should also be concerned that an ACA repeal could allow insurance companies to charge women more in their monthly premiums, a practice that was stopped by the ACA, and is explicitly allowed in Congressman Tom Price's bill, one of the few legislative ‘replace’ options.”
In other words, doing away with Obamacare could mean no time to pump at work, no private space to pump at work (besides, perhaps, the bathroom), no more free breast pumps, no more access to lactation counseling, and even denial of health insurance because pregnancy or cesareans might, like they once were before Obamacare was implemented, be considered “pre-existing conditions.”
While we don’t yet know what a Trump-approved replacement health-care bill could look like, we do know that he called a woman “disgusting” for needing a pumping break during her deposition with him, and that at least one breastfeeding infant was separated from her mother for hours in the chaos that followed Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
Given the GOP's war against women's health and reproductive rights, Trump’s record of impulsivity and total disregard for women’s rights and bodily autonomy may be given new heights. It is not a stretch to imagine that his administration will not only roll back the protections the ACA has given to pregnant and breastfeeding moms, but might also attempt to actively restrict rights to breastfeed in public or pump in the workplace.
Breastfeeding -- and breast pumping -- isn’t just some luxury lifestyle choice. It’s a matter of women’s and children’s health, which should be accessible to everyone. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that women breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. “Breastfeeding decreases the possibility that your baby will get a variety of infectious diseases, ear infections, diarrhea, etc,” according to the AAP. What’s more, it benefits the mother too. For example, breastfeeding mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster, have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and experience less postpartum bleeding.
It is common for new moms to struggle with breastfeeding. For their sake, and that of their babies, we need to make it easier, not harder, for them to breastfeed. Among developed countries, the U.S. already has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding and most dismal support of working parents. In a world where other nations offer mothers six months to a year of fully paid leave, it’s unfortunate that we even need legislation to ensure that moms who are forced to go back to work so early have the ability to pump. So let’s focus on preserving the Affordable Care Act. Let’s persist in preserving and defending our health-care rights and the basic right to feed and provide for our children.
* The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Well Rounded.