Trump Administration Poised to Roll Back Federal Birth Control Coverage Mandate

A protester is detained and escorted out by U.S. Capitol Police during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the last-ditch GOP push to overhaul the nation's health care system

The Health and Human Services Department issued a new rule allowing employers and insurers to be exempt from providing contraceptives based on religious and moral objections.

One of the most controversial - and one of the most welcomed - requirements of the 2010 Affordable Care Act was a requirement for health insurance plans to provide birth control coverage free of charge to patients.

That might create some legal tension if courts rule that the Trump administration is trying to avoid the regulatory process, so they had better prepare both pathways.

Health care providers and activists who oppose the new rules, however, say they could provide opportunities for many employers to end the coverage just to save money. The American Civil Liberties Union filed such a lawsuit less than three hours after the rules were issued.

"Donald Trump's latest dictate is a ideal execution of his passions: controlling women and robbing people of healthcare".

Trump's anti-abortion campaign promises appeared close to fulfillment in May, when he appointed a "birth control czar" that was a former lobbyist with the National Right to Live Committee and a legislative analyst for the Family Research Council, the Washington Post reported at the time. "However, it's unclear how major religious-affiliated employers such as Catholic hospitals and universities will respond".

The Center for Reproductive Rights is now considering all legal action to ensure women can get the health care they need, free from discrimination.

More than 55 million women have access to birth control without copayments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration.




"The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists - meaning that out of millions of employers in the USA, these exemptions may impact only about 200 entities, the number that that filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections", the Health and Human Services Department said in a statement.

That specific group, whose members dedicate their lives to living with and caring for the poorest of the elderly, was faced with fines of $75 million annually for following their Christian faith, and not paying for workers' contraceptives, including abortifacients. "Under this rule, any employer could decide that their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control".

The new rules take effect right away.

The Trump administration today issued interim final rules which could restrict access to birth control for hundreds of thousands of women.

Employers who argued the "contraceptive mandate" infringed on their religious liberties lodged U.S. Supreme Court challenges, winning exemptions in cases brought by the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and the Little Sisters of the Poor religious order.

Haywood Brown, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told National Public Radio that "reducing access to contraceptive coverage threatens to reverse the tremendous progress our nation has made in recent years in lowering the unintended pregnancy rate". The administration acknowledges that the law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, "does not provide protection for nonreligious, moral conscientious objections". Last May, the president ordered the federal government to vigorously promote and protect religious liberty - and now the DOJ and HHS are moving to make that order a reality.

Medical and legal groups immediately objected. Real Alternatives lost a suit against the mandate at the Third Circuit Court in August, which ruled that their pro-life mission did not merit a religious exemption from the mandate.

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