A proposed expansion of the so-called religious exemption from the Obama-era contraception mandate is likely to go into effect imminently, sources say. On a practical level, this means that any woman who gets insurance from her employer would have her contraceptive coverage determined by her boss. Starting immediately.
The old rule allowed employers to opt out of covering contraception for female employees if the employer was religious-based. The rule also gave employees of those institutions a workaround; they could get birth control without paying a copay elsewhere.
Under the new rule, any boss from any sort of company could claim religious or moral exemption from covering contraception for female employees. Note a key difference—or moral. That means an employer could opt to cut out birth control coverage for no other reason besides a boss’ discomfort with the idea of women having sex. They wouldn’t have to register that objection with an overseeing agency, wouldn’t have to demonstrate that they really believe that birth control is wrong. They could fake a reason. There’s nothing stopping them and no consequences for it.
The rule could go into effect as early as tomorrow morning, according to people familiar with the process.
Vox first obtained a copy of the rule back in May, and the Trump administration denied that the draft they had was a final draft of the rule. But they also refused to provide a copy of the rule for public review during the final stages of its approval process, which means that while we have an idea of what’s in it, we won’t know for sure before it’s actually in effect.
Contraception is the only category of health care that receives this treatment from the Trump administration. Christian Scientists might be opposed to blood transfusions, but Christian Science business owners aren’t allowed to strip coverage of blood transfusions from their insurance policies in Trumpland. Bosses who don’t want to pay for Viagra aren’t allowed to opt out. Just birth control. That’s it.
Sixty-two million American women currently have health insurance coverage that provides them with copay-free birth control. This rule would throw all of that into limbo.
“Birth control is not controversial—it’s basic health care the vast majority of women will use in the course of their lifetime,” says Dawn Laguens, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We’re talking about a fundamental right—to be able to decide whether and when you want to have children. We cannot allow President Trump to roll back the progress women have made over the past century.”
Despite his proximity to Woman Advocate (™) Ivanka Trump, the president has stocked the Department of Health and Human Services with people who are hostile to women’s reproductive health care. In May, Trump named contraception opponent Theresa Manning to oversee a program designed to reduce teen pregnancies. Abstinence-only education advocate Valerie Huber also works for HHS now. And Charmaine Yoest, who spent most of her career working for Americans United For Life, an organization that is anti-abortion and anti-contraception, also holds a senior role in the department.