Trump Dials Back ACA Contraception Mandate

Marsha Scott
October 7, 2017

The Trump administration announced on Friday that it is ending the requirement for employers to provide birth control coverage in their health insurance plans if it violates "sincerely held religious beliefs".

In a blow to Obamacare's controversial contraceptive mandate, employers may now have more leeway to withhold birth control coverage on religious grounds, according to new rules issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services on Friday.

The religious exemption to the Obamacare birth control mandate is a part of the executive order President Trump previously issued on religious freedom.

Women's health advocates said millions of women who had gained access to birth control at no cost would be at risk of losing that coverage. And it is another step toward fulfilling President Trump's promise to protect a host of Christian colleges, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and others from having to choose between violating their consciences and paying crippling fines to the IRS.

The Supreme Court previous year ordered the Obama administration and religiously affiliated organizations, such as universities and charities, to reach agreement on an accommodation that would let employees of such groups have access to no-cost contraception. The agency is issuing guidelines for insurers that specify they have to charge women who want abortion coverage at least $12 a year for that coverage. The court's decision enabled certain closely-held corporations like Hobby Lobby to exclude birth control coverage for religious reasons.

"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.

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As a candidate, Trump promised that he would "make absolutely certain religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor are not bullied by the federal government due to their religious beliefs". Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., were also present for the announcement, which came during a National Day of Prayer ceremony.

"I think what the Trump administration is trying to do is effectively gut the rule without repealing it, because repealing it would be so unpopular", Gretchen Borchelt, of the National Women's Law Center, told the Huffington Post. Before the ACA, many women had to pay for birth control - including pills and implanted devices like IUDs - putting it out of reach for many.

Employers with religious or moral qualms will also be able to cover some birth control methods, and not others. About 55 million women have directly benefited from no-cost birth control, according to an Obama administration report released past year. The court ordered both sides into negotiations for dealing with the legitimate religious objections of nuns to birth control, but the new regulations will certainly cover their moral objections if not their religious beliefs.

Rienzi emphasized that the rule doesn't end the Little Sisters' lawsuit and they "still need relief in court".

"The Trump administration is forcing women to pay for their boss's religious beliefs", said ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri. "With this rule in place, any employer could decide that their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control", Richards added.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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