In a sweeping revision of an ACA mandate that sought to guarantee contraception coverage, the Trump administration is looking to quickly push through a new rule that will allow any employer or insurer to deny birth control coverage based on moral or religious objections.
Under Obamacare birth control was covered as one of the eight essential health benefits that health care providers were required to cover without any out of pocket costs.
This decision was controversial with some religious groups, so a few employers were exempt from the birth control coverage mandate already, such as houses of worship and religiously affiliated hospitals and universities. Then, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that private businesses with “closely held” religious objections could also exclude birth control from insurance plans. But this new rule goes much farther.
The Trump administration would allow any company, private or public, to claim moral or religious objections to providing birth control coverage, and unlike before, these companies will not be required to file paperwork for approval, nor do they have to even notify the government of their intent. It would only have to be noted in their health care plans, and in the standard change in benefits documents provided to employees.
Many studies have shown that access to birth control not only reduces the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions, but also improves women’s health and reduces health care costs. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Each dollar spent on publicly funded contraceptive services save the U.S. health care system nearly $6. The most effective way to reduce abortion rates is to prevent unintended pregnancy by improving access to consistent, effective, and affordable contraception.”
The Trump administration, however, dismisses these studies as “insufficient to demonstrate a casual link.” Then goes to on to state that the real issue is that increased access to contraception has caused teen sexual activity to increase, which is not true. The number of fifteen year olds who are sexually active has actually gone down in recent years, and the number of 15-19 year olds who are unmarried and having sex has remained at about the same level.
But the administration claims that the federal guidelines outlining the laws for the ACA “does not require that the guidelines be ‘evidence based’.”
Birth control expenses can range from between $20 to $50 a month for the pill, to $150-$250 every three months for a Depo-Provera shot, and $500-$800 for an IUD.
Planned Parenthood often provides these at a lower cost, but if this administration has its way, that soon won’t be an option either. The issue is not only one of affordability, but of allowing women full access to make choices about their own reproductive health. Birth control doesn’t just matter for those preventing unintended pregnancies; it’s a health care issue, a women’s rights issue — a human rights issue.
If this administration is this anxious to erode our access to our own reproductive choices, what’s next?