Starting today, virtually any employer will be able to deny birth control coverage to their employees based on religious or moral objections thanks to a new policy by the Trump administration.
Following months of unsuccessful attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration took a different route and enacted two federal rules rolling back the no-copay birth control mandate aspect of Obamacare, Politico reports. The first rule outlines how an employer can qualify for an exemption on religious beliefs, while the second focuses on exemptions on moral grounds.
These directives — which went into effect immediately — are very similar to the draft leaked in May, which was immediately and roundly rejected and criticized by Democrats as well as public health and women’s health advocacy groups.
Under the ACA, almost all employers are required to offer health insurance to their employees that includes coverage of various forms of contraception, including birth control pills and intrauterine devices. Employers have had the ability to request a moral or religious exemption under the ACA, but only religious houses of worship were eligible — later broadened by the Hobby Lobby case to include “closely held” private businesses if covering birth control violated their religious beliefs. Between the 2014 Hobby Lobby ruling and October 2016, Politico found that 52 companies of nonprofit organizations requested a religious or moral exemption from the Obama administration.
Currently, the ACA provides no-copay birth control coverage to 62 million Americans. It is too early to determine the number of people who will be impacted by these new rules. Prior to the ACA, 20 percent of American women of reproductive age paid out of pocket for oral contraceptives, which decreased to less than 4 percent a few years after it became the law.
In a call with CNN earlier today, senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services said that “99.9 percent of women” who currently receive no-copay birth control through the ACA would not be affected. However, as the CNN report noted, “at the time of the call, it was unclear how the administration arrived at this data point.”
Organizations like the National Women’s Law Center plan to take legal action.
“By taking away women’s access to no-cost birth control coverage, the rules give employers a license to discriminate against women,” Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the NWLC said in a statement. “This will leave countless women without the critical birth control coverage they need to protect their health and economic security. We will take immediate legal steps to block these unfair and discriminatory rules.”
To voice your concerns to the Trump administration’s new rules, you can visit a Planned Parenthood action page, which provides ways to send messages to your representatives along with basic information and stories of people affected by reproductive health policies.