The Trump administration today rolled back regulations set by an Obama-era mandate requiring employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. The rollback aims to make it easier for employers to object for moral or religious reasons, a move that could cost hundreds of thousands of women access to free birth control.
The Affordable Care Act provides some contraceptive services at no cost to women, potentially saving them as much as $1000-per-year. But the White House's new rules would permit employers and insurers who have "sincerely held religious beliefs" about contraception to opt out of the birth-control mandate, along with employers and insurers with “moral convictions" against contraception. The exemptions would also include colleges and universities.
Though the mandate was put in place in an effort to protect women's health, according to the Obama administration, the Trump administration is arguing that contraception does not protect women's health, and in fact claims free birth control could promote "risky sexual behavior" in teenagers and adults. This has been disputed by most OB-GYNs—in fact, not only does birth control prevent unwanted pregnancy, the birth control pill can treat a number of hormonal disorders in women, including endometriosis, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and acne; it can reduce the risk of a number of cancers, and it can protect against Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, among its other benefits.
More access to contraception hasn't increased teen sexual activity at all over 20 years.
What it has done is cut teen pregnancies by 50%. https://t.co/iw9jtjwMxY
— Amy Sullivan (@sullivanamy) October 6, 2017
"Affordable contraception for women saves lives," Dr. Haywood L. Brown, the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Times. "It prevents pregnancies. It improves maternal mortality. It prevents adolescent pregnancies."
Planned Parenthood issued a statement:
Planned Parenthood on birth control coverage change: "An unacceptable attack on basic health care that the vast majority of women rely on." pic.twitter.com/QCwOWfKQeo
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 6, 2017
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who earlier this year signed legislation requiring insurance companies in New York to provide free contraception even in the event of an ACA repeal, took to Twitter to promise the state would continue its commitment to providing women with free birth control coverage:
The White House is about to roll back mandatory birth control coverage by your insurance plan.
NY will not go back https://t.co/GK3SqhswrV
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) October 6, 2017
Still, it's noteworthy that New York's state laws regarding women's reproductive health are murky, and in June the state's Republican-controlled senate failed to pass the Comprehensive Contraception Act.
That bill, which was introduced by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, would have codified into state law the ACA requirement that New Yorkers be able to access cost-free contraception, as well as expand the current requirements to provide cost-free coverage for all birth control methods approved by the FDA, including emergency contraception like Plan B; prohibit insurance companies from delaying or limiting coverage; and allow New Yorkers to stock up on a year’s worth of a contraceptive at a time.
The new Trump rule takes effect immediately.