Hundreds of thousands of women are potential victims of the latest Trump administration reversal of advances of the Obama years:
It will provide more leeway for private companies to refuse to offer birth control coverage in health insurance plans by citing religious or moral objections.
Over 55 million US women have birth control coverage with zero out-of-pocket costs, according to the National Women’s Law Center. The mandate saved women an estimated $1.4 billion on birth control pills alone in 2013, according to the center.
“There is no way to know how many women will be affected,” said Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on health policy research and communications.
A Freedom From Religion statement summarizes the situation and mentions a likely lawsuit:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation condemns President Trump’s executive orders today that virtually overturn Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate by exempting any employer with a religious or “moral” objection from covering contraception.
Under the new rules, which take effect immediately, any employer, including publicly traded companies and even universities, can claim a religious objection to providing birth control to employees. The Trump administration claims the twin executive orders “protect religious liberty.”
This is religious liberty run amok, contends FFRF. Religious liberty does not mean the freedom to force your dogma upon unwilling employees who themselves do not share these scruples.
“As it has for millennia, religion is being used to oppress women,” notes FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Employers have no business sticking their noses into intimate health decisions by women workers. It’s outrageous.”
The contraceptive mandate has given more than 55 million women access to birth control without additional co-payments. Under these new regulations, hundreds of thousands will lose that coverage.
One executive order exempts an employer or insurer from covering contraceptive services “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs.” The other exempts employees with “moral convictions” from covering contraception.
“It’s a legal fiction — frankly absurd — that a company can have a religious belief,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
This expands the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which held that “closely-held secular corporations” could possess religious beliefs exempting them from the mandate. FFRF has been raising the alarm about the perversion of the concept of religious liberty as the right to deny others rights based on your beliefs. FFRF’s brief, written by Marcy Hamilton, in the Hobby Lobby case was distinguished among the 88 briefs filed, because it convincingly argued against the constitutionality of the the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal law cited by the court.
FFRF has warned about the problems with that decision itself. One of the problems it creates is the encouragement of a “new race to the bottom.” By allowing companies to exempt themselves from regulation by claiming a religious belief, the decision (and now these rules) emboldens companies to adopt religious beliefs to gain a competitive edge and be exempted from federal laws.
Trump’s order is a starting pistol signaling the beginning of this race to the bottom.
FFRF is pleased the National Women’s Law Center is ready to sue over Trump’s executive orders and will do what it can to support that vital challenge.