Trump Administration Set to Make Denying Birth Control Coverage Even Easier

Photo: (CC) Ninian Reid

By Amie Newman — June 1, 2017

If you believe appointing an anti-contraception activist to lead the federal family planning program was bad for women’s health, you’re not going to like Trump’s latest attack on birth control.

According to a leaked draft of the proposed new regulation, the administration is set to remove birth control from the list of covered preventive health care services without a copay and allow any employer to drop birth control coverage for moral or religious reasons without needing to notify the government. But, wait. There’s more! The new regulation could also permit health insurers to refuse to cover birth control and allow individuals to refuse to participate in health insurance plans that also cover contraception.

To be clear, religious organizations (and some corporations) are already permitted to refuse to cover contraception for their employees if they believe their religious or moral beliefs would be “violated” by providing said coverage.

In an email about the new rule, the National Women’s Health Network said, “To say this would be very bad is an understatement.”

Department of Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, who has said in the past that there’s “not one woman” who doesn’t have access to birth control in the U.S., applauded the new rule.

Weakening birth control coverage for millions of women would have a devastating impact on women’s health and lives. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) responded to hordes of evidence that show how important contraception is as an essential health tool. In 2011, the Guttmacher Institute affirmed this:

Ensuring that every woman who is sexually active but not seeking pregnancy is able to obtain the contraceptive method that is right for her—meaning the method she will be able to use consistently and correctly—is, therefore, an urgent national priority.

That’s why the ACA requires that birth control services are covered in full, with no co-pay. Contraception is required to be covered by health insurance plans, including Medicaid, as long as they are prescribed by a healthcare provider. (The ACA also requires that insurers cover other preventative women’s health services in full, including mammograms, screenings for sexually transmitted infections, and HPV vaccinations.)

Despite the opinions of Price and Title X’s head Teresa Manning, contraception has immense benefits. Using birth control allows women to control if and when they have children and to space childbearing. Some methods also protect against sexually transmitted infections, and many women use hormonal methods to manage painful or irregular periods as well as other medical problems.

Since the ACA has gone into effect, women and the government have saved billions of dollars. Expanded access to birth control has also contributed to a sharply reduced rate of unintended pregnancy over the last four years and likely a lower number of abortions as well.

Vox notes that according to the Kaiser Family Foundation,

More than 20 percent of US women of childbearing age had to pay money out of pocket for oral contraceptives prior to the Obamacare mandate…. That shrunk to less than 4 percent a few years after the mandate took effect.

Yet now, Trump and his administration want to make it more difficult for people to access contraception.

In an effort to explain why allowing this broad refusal of birth control coverage won’t be an issue, the leaked draft states that contraception access can be provided “through other means”: “for example, through a “family member’s employer”, “an Exchange”, or “another government program.”

What? President Trump’s new budget would defund Planned Parenthood. The GOP health care plan’s latest version would strip 23 million people of health care access and $800 million from Medicaid, which currently covers birth control for the lowest-income women in the country. The administration is working hard to remove any access to affordable birth control in the United States.

Women’s health advocates are not happy with this latest attack on women’s health care access and vow to fight. Gretchen Borchelt, vice president of Reproductive Rights and Health, a program of the National Women’s Law Center, summed up the situation well:

Hundreds of thousands of women could lose access to no-cost birth control coverage if this broad-based, appalling, and discriminatory rule is made final. Giving permission to employers and insurance companies for their religious or moral beliefs to override women’s access to basic health care, which is critical to their economic security, is a license to discriminate and an affront to all women. The Trump Administration should be ready for a fight if it takes away this essential coverage. If the rule is made final, we will file a lawsuit against it.

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