tiptrot.com October 22, 2017

HHS rolls back mandate that employers provide birth control

07 October 2017, 12:08 | Bernice Figueroa

White House to let employers use religion as excuse to deny birth control coverage

Trump Administration Poised to Roll Back Federal Birth Control Coverage Mandate

The move extends to all commercial enterprises an exemption already given to religious institutions. Religious-liberty protections are central to American values, the official explained.

"The Trump Administration's decision to reverse the federal requirement for employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortion drugs and devices upholds the religious freedom for Little Sisters of the Poor, and many other nonprofit organizations, who can not and will not participate in killing innocent children", said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Medina) said in a statement that birth control is essential healthcare. For instance, there are hundreds of Catholic hospitals, nursing homes and nonprofits that may want to stop providing contraceptives, said Tim Jost, emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law. The mandate has been embroiled in lawsuits for the past several years. This is just another attempt by President Trump to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

But many health policy analysts say employers that do not wish to pay for their employees' contraceptive coverage will now be able to. Real Alternatives lost a suit against the mandate at the 3rd Circuit Court in August, which ruled that its pro-life mission did not merit a religious exemption from the mandate.

Until now, a fairly limited number of employers - mainly churches and some other religious entities - could get an exemption to the mandate. Most of all, the administration says that the requirement puts a "substantial burden" on the free exercise of religion by the employers who object to it, which seems to be the heart of the matter. Religious groups not directly affiliated with churches, required to file a 990 tax form due to their nonprofit status, did not meet the religious exemption.

"Through this policy shift, the Trump administration continues to sow ignorance, confusion, and instability", Wyman said in a statement on Friday.

In one of the new rules, the Trump administration says that exemptions should be available to "nonreligious nonprofit organizations" like March for Life, which holds an annual march opposing abortion.

Hobby Lobby has 32,000 employees.

Former president Barack Obama's administration had previously established a workaround for religious organizations with moral objections to providing birth control, allowing women whose employers opted out to obtain birth control directly from their insurer at no cost. Wrong. The Little Sisters of The Poor still objected because they felt that filing the forms to notify the government made companies "complicit."

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said women "deserve the freedom to access contraception at their own discretion - not at the whim of an employer". For low-income women, the government provides subsidized birth control through Title X family planning, for which Congress provided over $286 million in 2017 - the same level of funding as the three previous years under the HHS contraception mandate. They can also choose to participate in an existing accommodation, which enables employees to receive birth control coverage directly through their employer's insurer.

The group's case, and a second one involving private businesses including the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, went to the Supreme Court.

Both parties submitted briefs, and in May 2016, the court voided the federal circuit court decisions involving the plaintiffs and sent the cases back to their respective federal courts. "We thank President Trump for fulfilling a core promise to voters of faith and conscience who elected him".

Later that month, Vox published a leaked draft of the legislation that was under review of the Office of Management and Budget.

The new outline reverses an Obama-era mandate that protects female employees, saying "it is necessary and appropriate to provide the expanded exemptions". "Implementation of the Guidance at the Department of Justice".

More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration.

The ACLU specifically argues that the rules violate the establishment clause and the equal protection clause of the Constitution by "authorizing and promoting religiously motivated and other discrimination against women seeking reproductive health care". "We are encouraged by today's announcement", said Warsaw.

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