On Friday, the Trump administration rolled back the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employers include birth control coverage in their employees' insurance plans, dealing another devastating blow to women's reproductive rights under President Donald Trump.
New rules, which could be issued today, vastly expand exemptions for employers and insurers that cite moral or religious objections to the birth control requirement, according to a New York Times report.
The Family Research Council, through its president, Tony Perkins, said, "After eight years of the federal government's relentless assault on the First Amendment, the Trump administration has taken concrete steps today that will once again erect a bulwark of protection around American's First Freedom - religious freedom". "By taking away women's access to no-cost birth control coverage, the rules give employers a license to discriminate against women". By weakening the mandate, Trump is unilaterally paring back a small piece of Obamacare detested by his conservative base, which has grown increasingly frustrated with the GOP's inability to fulfill its longstanding promise to repeal the health care law.
- Planned Parenthood (@PPact)An estimated 574,000 women who use birth control didn't have coverage before mandate.
"Americans United for Life applauds the actions of the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that the right of conscientious employers and employees not to participate in or provide abortion-causing drugs is protected in law", AUL President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster said in a statement. In July, in proceedings for a lawsuit from the Catholic Benefits Association, the Justice Department asked for a delay in proceedings, rather than simply dropping the case, saying the government was crafting a final rule for exemptions to the mandate.
Until now, a fairly limited number of employers - mainly churches and some other religious entities - could get an exemption to the mandate. The employers are not required to submit proof of such convictions or religious beliefs.
Requiring insurance plans to cover birth control imposes a "substantial burden" to the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and could promote "risky sexual behavior" among adolescents, the administration told reporters Thursday night.
The birth control rules are the latest example of the Trump administration's pursuit of policies protecting "religious freedom."
Under the new rule, women who work for Hobby Lobby or the religious group may no longer have access to birth control coverage through the Obama-era workaround.
The practical effects of the change are obvious: some American women who receive contraception at no cost will, as a result of the Trump administration's new policy, have to pay higher out-of-pocket costs for birth control - because their employer says so.
The Trump administration's rule is likely to face its own legal challenges from groups that favor contraception. "I will be suing the Trump administration today to stop this rule and defend critical protections for millions of women in MA and across the country", she said in a statement.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is now considering all legal action to ensure women can get the health care they need, free from discrimination.