The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it will relax the Affordable Care Act's "contraceptive mandate" that required companies to include birth control in employee health insurance plans at no extra cost to workers. For low-income women, the government provides subsidized birth control through Title X family planning, for which Congress provided over $286 million in 2017 - the same level of funding as the three previous years under the HHS contraception mandate.
The Affordable Care Act provides some contraceptive services at no cost to women, potentially saving them as much as $1000-per-year. That rule will force women who work for those companies to pay for contraceptive pills and devices themselves.
By and large, employers do not save money by deciding not to cover contraceptive care, as the savings from not providing birth control are typically mitigated by an uptick in pregnancies, births, and associated costs. Another rule permits opting out for "moral convictions".
"With this rule, the Trump administration is taking direct aim at birth control coverage for nearly two million women in North Carolina", said Jenny Black, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic's CEO, in a statement. "We should have space for organizations to live out their religious identity and not face discrimination".
"The Trump administration is carrying out the agenda of religious fundamentalists, the biggest part of the president's remaining devoted supporters", said Maggie Garrett, Americans United's legislative director, in a statement Friday.
"Today's outrageous rules by the Trump Administration show callous disregard for women's rights, health, and autonomy, said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center".
The Justice Department guideline directs attorneys and agencies that freedom of religious extends to both organizations and individuals, and includes living out one's religious beliefs. A number of religiously affiliated schools have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate.
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Birth control should be free, but instead the Trump administration is reportedly about to make it even harder for some women to obtain.
But Dr. Haywood L. Brown, the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the rules would turn back the clock on women's health. "They're taking contraception coverage away from women without justification".
Missouri Democratic Party chair Stephan Webber said, "Birth control is not controversial-it's something the vast majority of women will use during their lifetime".
Proponents of birth control usage, like Planned Parenthood, say that it can be used to for a multiple purposes, like managing severe periods, preventing bone thinning, and addressing infections in female reproductive organs.
Apparently, the Trump administration intends to enact the new laws immediately, saying "it would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest to engage in full notice and comment rule-making".
"The constitutional protection of religious beliefs and the right to exercise those beliefs have served this country well, have made us one of the most tolerant countries in the world, and have also helped make us the freest and most generous", Sessions said. It doesn't create or authorize the creation of any new protections.
Officials also said the administration is tightening oversight of how plans sold under the health law cover abortion.