The Trump administration announced today it is rescinding the Obama-era Affordable Health Care Act requirement that all employers must provide health coverage which covers birth control for its female employees. Employers can now easily claim a moral or religious objection to providing such coverage, leaving women at an increased risk of having no access to affordable reproductive health care.
Several religious groups and businesses sued the Obama administration over this birth control coverage requirement, and the Supreme Court ruled that for-profit companies did not have to provide contraceptives as part of their health plans if they had a religious objection. But this was not enough for those who held the strong belief that the government should not support birth control, and there was continued demands that the requirement be rescinded altogether.
This debate remained unresolved when President Obama ended his term, and at the Rose Garden ceremony in May, President Trump made a promise to The Little Sisters of the Poor — who were among the groups who filed suit — that “your long ordeal will soon be over.”
Director of the Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights, Roger Severino, said to NPR, “We should have space for organizations to live out their religious identity and not face discrimination.”
While some employers may still choose to provide this coverage, the fact that it is no longer mandated puts millions of women at risk of having to pay out of pocket for contraceptives — a cost that can equate to up to $50 per month for the pill, and upwards of $800 for other forms such as IUDs.
Politico reports that the Trump administration is making the argument that women have other “affordable contraceptive options” and “that several government programs provide free or subsidized contraception for low-income women, including Title X family planning grants.” Advocates for women’s health are pushing back against these claims, saying such programs are underfunded and are increasingly under threat by other Republican initiatives such as defunding Planned Parenthood.
This action speaks volumes to the influence of religious groups and interests in Washington, especially under the current Republican leadership.
The ACLU is already filing suit against the Trump administration for this measure, and it is likely that additional legal challenges will soon emerge.