WASHINGTON― A draft of the Trump administration’s new birth control coverage exemption has leaked, and it is far more wide-reaching than had been predicted.
The new rule amends the Obama administration’s coverage requirement to allow any employer, school or insurance company to opt out of covering contraception due to any moral or religious objection, Vox reported Wednesday. Even massive for-profit companies with no religious affiliation will be able to deny birth control coverage to their female employees.
“This rule would mean women across the country could be denied insurance coverage for birth control on a whim from their employer or university,” said Dana Singiser, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood. “It makes a farce of the Trump administration’s so-called ‘women’s empowerment’ agenda and endangers a woman’s ability to make the most basic and personal of decisions ― when and if to have a child.”
In the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration deemed birth control an essential health service and required most employers to cover the full range of contraceptives in their insurance plans at no cost to women. The rule carved out an exemption for houses of worship and an accommodation for religiously affiliated non-profits, but the Trump administration has decided that requiring anyone to cover birth control violates religious freedom.
“Expanding the exemption removes religious and moral obstacles that entities and certain individuals may face who otherwise wish to participate in the healthcare market,” the administration says in the rule.
The contraception mandate currently guarantees coverage to more than 55 million women. Before the law went into effect, more than 20 percent of women of childbearing age had to pay out of pocket for contraception. The coverage rule reduced that number to 4 percent. It has contributed to an all-time low in unintended pregnancy and the lowest U.S. abortion rate since the procedure became legal in 1973.
The roll-back of the rule will go into effect once the Office of Management and Budget approves it and a 60-day public comment period ends.
Conservative groups applauded the move. Family Research Council president Tony Perkins commended President Donald Trump for “reversing the devastating trend set by the last administration to punish charities, pastors, family-owned businesses and honest, hard-working people simply for living according to their faith.”
Progressive legal advocacy groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union, are threatening to sue the administration over the new regulation.
“Any rule that allows employers to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees is an attempt at allowing religion to be used as a license to discriminate,” ACLU spokesman Louise Melling said in a statement. “We’ll see the Trump administration in court if they try to follow through on these plans.”