After years of controversy, employees of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will now have birth control covered by their health insurance. Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA) announced last Thursday in an email that contraceptive coverage would be “expanded” to include the following:
- Oral contraceptives
- Contraceptive patches
- Vaginal rings
- Intrauterine devices
- Injectable contraceptives
No preauthorization will be needed for coverage, which begins February 1, 2023. Emergency contraceptives, such as Plan B, are not covered, and surgical sterilization must be preauthorized.
Despite the Church handbook stating birth control is a private matter, female employees at institutions such as Brigham Young University, Deseret Book, Deseret News, Family Services, Ensign Peak, and other Church employers had to pay for all birth control (and issues relating to birth control) out of pocket. DMBA also provides health coverage for missionaries. In prior emails from DMBA, representatives stated the “sponsors” of these organizations “elected not to cover contraceptives for family planning purposes.” The exclusion has had a deep impact, largely on women.
In 2021, an Instagram account called @dmba_stories was launched to share why such coverage is so important. Church employees shared stories anonymously of their experiences with DMBA. Below are a few examples.
“I had a miscarriage at 16 weeks and was obviously heartbroken. My best care option was to have a D&C, but I was terrified that DMBA wasn’t going to cover the expense. I spent the day I found out my baby had passed making phone calls to insurance just to make sure they would cover the safest way to remove my very loved, but dead baby. I shouldn’t have even had to think about that! It should have been a given that they would cover it, but because it’s DMBA, I didn’t think they would. That night, my doctor gave me a pill to prep my uterus—a pill associated with abortion—they did not cover that, despite the fact that my baby was dead. The cost was one thing, but it made me feel like they didn’t approve of what I was doing, which was hard to grapple with in my grief because they are so closely linked to the church.”
“I was diagnosed with endometriosis at 16 and had surgery to have much of the growth removed when I was 20. My doctor recommended I stay on constant birth control to slow future growth and delay the need for subsequent surgeries. I left for a mission shortly after. It was so difficult to work with DMBA to get a large supply of birth control for me to take on my mission. In the end, my mom mailed me a card every few days with a handful of pills tucked in for my whole mission.”
“I already had a copper IUD when I got on DMBA insurance. After a couple of years, I found out I was in the 0.1% of people who get pregnant with an IUD. On the ultrasound, I could see my tiny baby on one side of my uterus and my IUD on the other. The doctor explained if the IUD stayed in, it would terminate my pregnancy, so I immediately asked them to take it out and give the baby I wasn’t planning on a chance. Months later, I got a bill and realized this service wasn’t covered. When I called DMBA to ask about it, they explained that no service relating to birth control was covered—even removing the IUD to keep my baby alive. I was shocked and upset and no one had good answers for me.”
Other stories detail sister missionaries having their families trying to hide necessary birth control in packages being sent to third-world countries, young mothers struggling with severe depression trying to plan their families without birth control, and multiple employees turning to Planned Parenthood with no other options.
Though some employees were able to get birth control for medical conditions, the broader coverage is being widely celebrated by members of the Church.