The Trump administration appears poised to continue its attacks on women and healthcare access, as a draft rule shows the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employee insurance cover contraception would be significantly rolled back.
The draft regulation, obtained by Vox, is dated May 23, and "would significantly overhaul the birth control mandate as it had been implemented by the Obama administration," write Dylan Scott and Sarah Kliff. They note that it "would allow any employer to request an exemption based on moral or religious objections. This would widen the exemption to apply to any company from a small, religiously affiliated business to a large, publicly traded company. "
The company would not have to notify the government if it was seeking an exemption, Vox adds.
President Donald Trump, the Guardian writes
laid the groundwork for rolling back the mandate early this month when he signed an executive order directing his administration "to address conscience-based objections" to preventive care for women.
At the 4 May signing ceremony, in the White House rose garden, he singled out for special praise the Little Sisters of the Poor. The group, a religious order of nuns, was the face of the legal challenge to the contraception mandate before the supreme court.
"With this executive order, we are ending the attacks on your religious liberty," Trump said.
But "[w]hat's at stake," according to an editorial by the Portland Press Herald in Maine, "is the well-being of millions of women of all faiths who benefit from being able to plan their families."
Indeed, commented the Center for Reproductive Rights on its Twitter page, the "draft rule would rob women of their ability to control their lives."
Just last week, a group of Democratic senators wrote (pdf) to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney, asking him to push back against any proposal that would attack affordable birth control access. The senators, including Patty Murray of Washington and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, wrote in part:
Today, more than 55 million women are benefiting from coverage of preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs including birth control, thanks to the ACA [Affordable Care Act]. In fact, from 2012 to 2013, the number of women who filled their prescriptions for oral contraceptives with no co-pay nearly quadrupled form 1.3 million to 5.1 million. Women saved more than $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs for birth control in 2013 alone. Access to affordable preventive services including contraception is a critical part of women's healthcare as well as an economic priority for many women. It should be treated as such.
But the new proposal does do so, said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Instead, it "is the latest in a long line of efforts from the Trump administration to make it harder for millions of Americans, particularly women, to get the healthcare coverage they need. 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," she said.
Calling the proposed rule "broad-based, appalling, and discriminatory," Gretchen Borchelt, vice president for reproductive rights and health at the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), said it threatens to take away access to no-cost birth control coverage for hundreds of thousands of women.
"Giving permission to employers and insurance companies for their religious or moral beliefs to override women's access to basic healthcare, which is critical to their economic security, is a license to discriminate and an affront to all women," Borchelt said.
The Center, ACLU, and NWLC vowed to fight the effort in court.
The Press Herald also called on the mandate's supporters to "speak up early and press elected officials to resist this misguided effort to turn back the clock."