Oct 6, 2017, 4:44 PM ET

Trump administration rolling back mandate to cover birth control


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released two new rules today allowing employers to claim exemptions to covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act. The rules go into effect today.

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The first new rule allows any employer to opt against providing birth control coverage based on the employer's religious beliefs. The second rule provides an exemption for organizations and small businesses that object on the basis of moral conviction rather than religious belief.

Legal challenges to the change in rules have already begun, including with a lawsuit filed Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union. Some state attorneys general are also conferring on possible legal action.

Since contraception became a covered preventive benefit under Obamacare, the share of women employees in the U.S. who pay their own money for birth control pills has plunged to under 4 percent from 21 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Health and Human Services Department says the change in rules will affect only a small fraction of women -- an estimated 120,000 nationally.

The changes "will not affect over 99.9 percent of the 165 million women in the United States," the HHS statement said. It added that the exemptions will likely only have an impact for the roughly 200 employers that have filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections.

“No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system," Caitlin Oakley, Health and Human Services press secretary, said in a statement. "Today’s actions affirm the Trump administration’s commitment to upholding the freedoms afforded all Americans under our Constitution," the statement said.

It is unclear how religious-affiliated employers, like Catholic hospitals and universities, will respond to the rule changes, according to The Associated Press.

As to publicly-traded companies, some may be able to claim an exemption under the religious belief rule. Public companies can't claim exemption under the moral conviction rule.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards slammed the decision.

"The Trump administration just took direct aim at birth control coverage for 62 million women. This is an unacceptable attack on basic health care that the vast majority of women rely on," Richards said in a statement.

"With this rule in place, any employer could decide that their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control," she said in the statement.

The ACLU was similarly critical, saying in a statement, "The Trump Administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’s religious beliefs."

Virginia State Attorney General Mark Herring said he and some other state attorneys general are discussing a possible legal response.

"Today's decision by the Trump administration puts healthcare decisions in the hands of a woman's employer, which is so demeaning, discriminatory, and dangerous that it's hard to put it into words," Herring said in a statement. "We have been anticipating this awful idea and have already begun working with other states to evaluate any legal response that may be appropriate to protect our citizens' private decisions and access to affordable healthcare."

The Health and Human Services Department's new rules cite the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling as legal grounds.

The new exemptions are being praised as a major victory for religious conservatives, with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops putting out a statement calling it a "return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state."

It was also applauded by the conservative Family Research Council and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., who tweeted "the administration ended a policy that was repugnant to our country’s tradition of religious freedom."

News - Trump administration rolling back mandate to cover birth control

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  • Dave Park

    Birth control should be made available to anyone that wants it. The problem is too many that should use it don't.

  • kms

    So does this mean no coverage for vasectomies either??

  • MandalayBay328

    So, employers could cover birth control and pay only $200 a year OR they can pay to cover a child on their insurance at $30,000 a year. I see the savings!

  • eleanors rose

    This is like when the religious fanatics of iran got power -- the massive attacks on womens freedoms and rights as human beings stripped

    My religion says women are good for nothing , theyre made to be subhuman breeding mares so Im not going to offer insurancd to any of them for this required very real health issue.....

    THAT is UnConstitutional

    and the bigger point missed is the disgusting vile disregard for women as human beings by republican men!!!!!!!!

    Lets try denying healthcare coverage to men drugs exclusive for ertile anything if theyre not married,

    lets require men to get castrated if they ever get a woman pregnant and dont marry her

    lets deny coverage to diseases of obese people like diabetes, heart disease because glutany is against my religious beliefs

    just one week ago trump made it easier to discriminate against women being paid unfairly....

    then he made it easier to rape women.....

    then he said hes shutting down womens health clinics so they cant stay healthy

    Republican total war on women as we knew there would be when republicans got total control

  • ProfPalefuddy

    Trump's next act will be a breeding program where the Government provides women with Trump Seed to promote the Super Race of Fine Children from his spawn juice.

  • Musquash1

    Less birth control = more abortions. Why can't religious fanatics see this?

  • anastasiabeaverhousen

    Let's get this straight; "religious freedom" does NOT mean you may impose your relious beliefs on others. It means YOU are free to not use birth control if it is against your beliefs, and your employees are likewise free to make their own decisions based on theirs.

    Contraception is a BASIC, sometimes life-saving, treatment/procedure/prescription for the vast majority of women of all faiths., incl. a majority of Catholic women. It should not be treated as if it is an optional frill and not part of any comprehensive health coverage.

  • Chuck

    Hmmm....seems no one can admit that it was unconstitutional and this ends many lawsuits that have been costing taxpayers for years.

  • Friend leach

    “It's not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the 'right' to education, the 'right' to health care, the 'right' to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's dependency. Those aren't rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle.”

    ― Alexis de Tocqueville French diplomat, political scientist, and historian, He was best known for his works Democracy in America (1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both he analyzed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals.

    He also commented about; "There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle."

  • whitepine

    These Republicans need to visit India and see what uncontrolled pregnancies does to population growth.

  • mtntrek3

    Oh, this guy..... . Smh. Donald, you said you had a good life before you accepted the Presidency. ...... FYI, ..... you can resign and return to your good life.

  • JDC

    I'm ok with church organizations being allowed to not cover birth control. If you work for a church organization and don't agree with their rules, then don't work there. But this rollback challenges the supreme courts decision against Hobby Lobby. If you own a business that is not religious in nature and structure, too bad. You don't get to impose your ideological garbage to employees of a craft store or a chicken sandwich store.

  • John Smith

    Since when does the government allow the state and religion to mesh? It is against the Constitution to allow a religion to dictate how government functions or sets its policies. Under the Constitution there is a separation between state and religion. Trump and his administration are ignoring what the Founding Fathers set up to protect all people from religious interference on state matters. It's unconstitutional for Trump to have religious beliefs override US policies and to pick one religion to base his standards by. Religion has no place in governance.

  • Ursus Sapiens II

    Christians hail this as a win for religious freedom.
    All while supporting a p-grabbing, serial divorcee who cheats business partners, uses foul language in public speeches, insults those who disagree, mocks the disabled, shirks military service, and bullies those suffering from a natural disaster.
    But, hey. "Family values" right?