The Trump administration is poised to roll back the federal requirement for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans, vastly expanding exemptions for those that cite moral or religious objections.
The new rules, which could be issued as soon as Friday, fulfil a campaign promise by President Donald Trump and are sure to touch off a round of lawsuits on the issue.
More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration. Under the new regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose birth control benefits they now receive at no cost under the Affordable Care Act.
One new rule offers an exemption to any employer or insurer that objects to covering contraceptive services “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Another regulation offers a new exemption to employers that have “moral convictions” against covering contraceptives.
Both rules would take effect as soon as they are on display at the office of the Federal Register.
The Trump administration acknowledges that this is a reversal of President Barack Obama’s conclusion that the mandate was needed because the government had a compelling interest in protecting women’s health.
In the new rules, the Trump administration says the Affordable Care Act does not explicitly require coverage of contraceptives.
The administration lists health risks that it says may be associated with the use of certain contraceptives, and it says the mandate could promote “risky sexual behaviour” among some teenagers and young adults.
By contrast, many doctors, including obstetricians and gynaecologists, say contraceptives have generally been a boon to women’s health.
The new rules, drafted mainly by political appointees at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, seek “to better balance the interests” of women with those of employers and insurers that have conscientious objections to contraceptive coverage.
Dr Haywood L. Brown, the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the rules would turn back the clock on women’s health.
“Affordable contraception for women saves lives,” he said. “It prevents pregnancies. It improves maternal mortality. It prevents adolescent pregnancies.”
The New York Times
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