On Oct. 6, in yet another blow to women’s health and reproductive rights, the Trump administration ended an Obama-era mandate that required employers to include birth control coverage in insurance plans. According to Planned Parenthood, the changes could impact some 62 million women who had access to birth control free of charge thanks to the provision of the Affordable Care Act.
The birth control rules are the latest example of the Trump administration’s pursuit of policies protecting “religious freedom.” Employers that claim they have either a “moral” or “religious” objection to providing birth control will now be able to avoid covering it under their insurance plans. Notably, there is already evidence to suggest these “religious objections” have already largely been exploited by for-profit companies with no clear religious views. And under the new rules, employers would not have to petition the government — or even notify them — if they want to take advantage of one of the two exceptions.
The Trump administration has already done much to diminish reproductive rights and women’s healthcare not only in the United States, but around the world. This latest move, however, is especially concerning. Not only do the new rules call into question the ability of tens of millions of women to afford birth control, but one of the reported chief authors of the new rules, Matthew Bowman of the Health and Human Services Department, is a noted anti-choice and anti-birth-control advocate. Bowman previously worked at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which pushed anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-choice ideologies, and in the past has argued that the contraceptive mandate could “spread measles” and that emergency contraception and even IUDs “cause abortions.” Unsurprisingly, the administration’s argument for the new rules relies on some of the worst and most damaging and baseless arguments trotted out by birth control foes, including that access to birth control promotes “risky sexual behavior” among teens.
Dr. Anne Davis, Consulting Medical Director of Physicians for Reproductive Health, strongly condemned the rules in a statement shared with POPSUGAR. “No matter where they work, women need and deserve birth control access. An employer’s beliefs have no place in these private decisions, just as they would not in any other conversation about a patient’s health care. It’s a dangerous intrusion into a woman’s privacy and her ability to get the care she needs,” she said. “This new rule also reflects a disturbing trend in both the Trump administration and the current Congress of efforts to dismantle women’s access to health care, including administration appointees who oppose constitutionally protected rights, legislation allowing states to restrict family planning funds, and a healthcare repeal bill that would have left millions of Americans uninsured or without coverage for essential services.”
The new rules cap off what was already a bad week for women’s reproductive rights in Washington; on Tuesday, the House passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans most abortions after 20 weeks.
The National Women’s Law Center has already promised to take on the new birth-control rules in court, and Planned Parenthood and other women’s organizations are rallying supporters to voice their opposition to the new policy.