Published: Sat, October 07, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Trump administration expands exemptions on contraceptive mandate

Trump administration expands exemptions on contraceptive mandate

In May, Trump signed a decree on religious liberty ordering his administration to take account of objections of conscience on matters of contraception.

The Trump administration acknowledges that this is a reversal of President Barack Obama's conclusion that the mandate was needed because the government had a compelling interest in protecting women's health.

"Women shouldn't be denied access to basic health care based on their employers' religious beliefs", she says.

The administration lists among its reasons for rolling back the Obama-era requirement that it could promote "risky sexual behavior" among teens and young adults.

"I can't imagine that many employers are going to be willing to certify that they have a moral objection to standard birth control methods", said Dan Mendelson, president of the consulting firm Avalere Health.

"The attempts by the previous administration to provide some protections were inadequate", said a senior HHS official of the Obama administration's efforts to provide workarounds for religious groups.

As the Trump administration itself notes, workers whose employers request an exemption from the mandate are no longer entitled to free birth control.

Under the existing policy, churches and houses of worship were exempt, while religious-affiliated groups who object had to allow a third-party administrator or insurer to handle birth control coverage.

In expanding the exemption for employers, the Trump administration says there are many other sources of birth control.

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The new regulations protect groups such as the Little Sisters of the Poor from litigation if they refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, but widen the pool of those shielded to include non-profits, for-profit companies, other non-governmental employers, and schools and universities.

The exemption will be available to for-profit companies, whether they are owned by one family or thousands of shareholders.

"Today's decision by the Trump administration puts healthcare decisions in the hands of a woman's employer, which is so demeaning, discriminatory, and unsafe that it's hard to put it into words", Herring said in a statement.

In a press call on Friday, Rienzi said such fears are unfounded. "Simply put, you don't need nuns to give out contraceptives", Rienzi said, referencing Becket's clients, the Little Sisters of the Poor.

"Any move to decrease access to these vital services would have damaging effects on public health and women's health", said Haywood Brown, director of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Under the accommodation process, experts argued, the act of notifying the government of their objection would still cause the provision of contraceptives, sterilizations and some abortion-causing drugs through their health plans, which would violate religious principles. "It prevents adolescent pregnancies".

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National National Women's Law Center have announced that they will sue the federal government over the decision. The administration acknowledges that the law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, "does not provide protection for nonreligious, moral conscientious objections". The first rule outlines how an employer can qualify for an exemption on religious beliefs, while the second focuses on exemptions on moral grounds. In 2014, Hobby Lobby, a craft-supply retailer, won a case against the mandate in a 5-4 Supreme Court. "It not only allows women to plan and space their pregnancies in a way that is best for their health and their families, but also helps manage a variety of health conditions".

The HHS mandate has undergone numerous legal challenges from religious organizations, including the Little Sisters of the Poor and Priests for Life.

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