Under the administration’s new rule, any employer or insurer that objects to covering birth control “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs” or “moral convictions” can forgo the federal Obama-era requirement that guaranteed cost-free birth control to 62 million women.
According to the Trump administration, “it is necessary and appropriate to provide the expanded exemptions” because there’s no way to satisfy all religious objections to the mandate, and that there is no “compelling governmental interest” in having entities with religious objections fulfill the mandate. The mandate, therefore, places a “substantial burden” on an employers’ freedom of religion, it argues.
The New York Times reports that the administration also argued that the Affordable Care Act doesn’t explicitly require contraceptive coverage, and said birth control could promote “risky sexual behavior,” as well as listed health risks associated with certain contraceptives.
The rules apply to for-profit employers regardless of the size of ownership. Employers won’t need to notify the government of their exemption but must inform employees of their coverage change.
The administration claims that the exemption won’t affect many women in the long run and that there are already “dozens of programs” subsidizing birth control. Women’s health advocates argue, however, that hundreds of thousands of women could possibly go without birth control coverage. Prior to the ACA mandate, one in three women struggled to pay for birth control, which can cost over $1,000 a year.
“I think what the Trump administration is trying to do is effectively gut the rule without repealing it, because repealing it would be so unpopular,” Gretchen Borchelt, vice president for reproductive rights and health at the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement. “They’re taking contraception coverage away from women without justification.”
The National Women’s Law Center said it will sue the Trump administration and the ACLU has also indicated in the past that it will challenge the move.