A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration effort to end the Obamacare requirement of coverage for birth control under group health insurance plans, but the ruling applies in only 13 states where Democratic attorneys general have gone to court on behalf of women’s reproductive health. UPDATE: A different judge has made the injunction nationwide.
There remains hope that another judge might enforce the ruling nationwide.
In Arkansas, Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is a foe of reproductive rights for women. She has not intervened against the rule, preferring to go to court in support of rules limiting women’s medical rights. So Arkansas businesses are free to drop birth control coverage from their health plans for any “moral” reason, not merely the pretext of “religion.” This can have real-life consequences and costs. As Think Progress notes:
Obamacare’s birth control mandate requires employers to offer birth control coverage at no additional cost to their employees, and has significantly reduced people’s out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. One study estimates that women saved $1.4 billion on the birth control pill alone in 2013.
This doesn’t include the cost of unwanted pregnancies. Nor does it tally the number of women who might have opted for abortion because of them.
The policy is neither pro-life nor pro-woman.
The attack on women’s medical rights by Trump, with full support from Leslie Rutledge and the Arkansas legislature, is comprehensive.
Officials proposed regulations last year to prohibit health care providers that offer abortion services — like Planned Parenthood — from participating in the Title X family planning program, and to bar clinics from saying abortion during pregnancy counseling. [Arkansas cut off Planned Parenthood from Medicaid and is being sued over it.]
A final version of the so-called Title X “gag rule” is expected to be released any day now — likely after the partial government shutdown ends, sources tell ThinkProgress.
The Trump administration says patients whose employers won’t offer them birth control coverage because of a religious or moral exemption can go to Title X clinics to get contraception.
But officials also proposed eliminating the requirement that Title X providers offer the full range of family planning methods, and want to direct money to religiously-affiliated organizations that promote abstinence as a method of family planning.
UPDATE: The judge in Pennsylvania stayed the Trump order throughout the U.S. because of the harm it would cause. Perhaps Leslie Rutledge can now intervene to overturn that order.