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Friday
Oct062017

We won’t stand for Trump’s attack on birth control!

Expanded religious and moral exemptions will hurt women
 
Today, the Trump Administration released two new rules to weaken the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s contraception coverage, effective immediatelyEmployers will be able to deny their employees birth control coverage because of the employer’s moral objections to birth control. In addition, the rules allow more employers to cite religious objections for denying the coverage. Raising Women’s Voices rejects this latest and most devastating anti-science and anti-women attack on our reproductive health and freedom.
 
What can we do to fight back? Already, our colleagues at the ACLU have filed a lawsuit challenging the new rules, and more court challenges are likely. What else? First, we can call on employers to stand up for their employees and publicly declare they will continue to provide contraceptive coverage. Second, all of us who are employees can demand that our employers affirm they will continue contraceptive coverage. And we all can call out the Trump administration on social media, using the hashtag #HandsOffMyBC.
 
Raising Women’s Voices will also be preparing comments on the rules, which are due by December 5. Even though the rules went into effect today, they are interim final rules on which the Trump administration is accepting comments. We must speak up!
 
What has the contraceptive coverage rule meant for women and their families? Under Obama-era regulations implementing the ACA, 62.4 million women have insurance coverage for their birth control free from out-of-pocket costs.  The percentage of womenwith insurance through their employers who were paying out-of-pocket expenses for birth control pills fell from 1 out of every 4 women before passage of the ACA to just 1 out of every 28 women in 2014. And in 2013 alone, women saved $1.4 billions in co-pays and deductibles on birth control pills.
 
Why is contraceptive coverage vulnerable to administrative attack even while ACA repeal efforts have stalled? While the ACA made some women’s preventive health protections explicit in the law, it expanded coverage for a broader range of measures by tasking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to draw up a list of “additional preventive care and screenings not described” elsewhere in the bill. Under the Obama Administration, HHS issued a list of preventive measures that included contraceptive counseling and all 18 FDA-approved contraceptive methods.
 
But the story didn’t end there. In response to objections from religiously affiliated employers, the Obama Administration issued an “accommodation” for non-profits and later, closely-held for-profits who object to contraception on religious grounds. While not ideal, the accommodation was a compromise that gave women access to seamless birth control coverage at no cost while also allowing employers with religious objections to avoid paying for it themselves. Fights over the accommodation famously played out over the course of two Supreme Court battles to determine whether religiously-affiliated employers must provide coverage.
 
With today’s announcement, the Trump Administration has thrown the existing Obama administration religious employer accommodation out the window. Instead of an accommodation that protects employers’ religious views and women’s access to vital health care, the new rules simply allow almost any employer to strip birth control coverage from their employees for either moral or religious objections to contraception. Universities can also deny birth control coverage in student health plans for religious or moral reasons. In addition, insurance companies can deny coverage for religious or moral reasons as long as the employer agrees.
 
Which leads us to the question, why did the administration issue two rules?Because while the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act serves as the basis for right-wing objections based on “sincerely held religious beliefs”—the crux of those two Supreme Court cases—there is no legal basis for broadening that standard to include “moral” objections. The Trump Administration is creating a new standard, seemingly out of whole cloth. Furthermore, by issuing the rules as “interim final rules,” which are effective immediately before public comment is sought, there’s a strong legal case to be made that the administration is breaking the law.
 
It’s possible and perhaps likely that the courts could block the rule from taking effect, particularly while HHS conducts its planned after-the-fact comment period through December 5. But while legal challenges make their way through the courts, women’s coverage is at risk now.

 

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