The Trump administration will exempt employers from providing insurance coverage for birth control if it conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs, scaling back a rule created under the Obama administration.
The rule, released Wednesday, will take effect in 60 days and will affect between 6,400 and 127,000 women, according to the Trump administration. The religious exemption applies to any type of employer, but the moral exemption doesn’t apply to publicly traded businesses or government entities.
The rules received praise from Susan B. Anthony’s List, an anti-abortion group holds a moral objection to certain types of birth control. The group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement slammed the original rules created under the Obama administration as “repeated violations of conscience” that were “deeply contrary to the core of our nation.”
But the American Civil Liberties Union lashed out at the rule in a statement, saying it would allow “virtually any employer to claim a religious exemption that enables it to deny any employee insurance coverage for contraception.”
“This rule will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of Americans, particularly women, to get the health care coverage they need,” Louise Melling, ACLU deputy legal director, said in a statement. “This rule will be used as a license to discriminate and represents a chilling return to the days when the government treated women’s sexuality, and thus contraception, as immoral, perpetuating harmful stereotypes that have long been used to discriminate against women.
The birth control mandate was created as an outgrowth of Obamacare. The law was written to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to decide what type of preventive care health insurance plans should cover without a co-pay, and the Obama administration determined that all forms of birth control should fall within that list. Making such decisions through the rulemaking process, however, means that different administrations can change or reverse them.
The Obama administration had issued rules saying that employers must cover all forms of contraception, from birth control pills to emergency contraception. The obligation had exemptions for houses of worship, but not for companies that had closely held religious beliefs. More than 55 million women relied on the provision, the Obama administration had said.
Certain businesses with religious owners were concerned about paying for access to drugs or devices they consider abortifacients, including emergency contraception and intrauterine devices, or IUDs. Others objected to any form of birth control or sterilization.
The mandate was attacked by critics as an assault on religious liberty, and in the case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held that as written, it violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The Obama administration was steered by the justices to come up with a more narrowly tailored rule, which has now been revised by the Trump administration.