More Obstacles for Women’s Access to Birth Control

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Some employers that have “religious or moral objections” to providing employees birth control now have protections granted to them thanks to the Trump administration’s recently issued regulations. Under these new rules, employers have much more flexibility allowing them to withhold any form of contraception from their workers. In October 2017, the Trump administration issued two interim final rules providing an exemption for those who had sincerely held religious or moral objections to such coverage, while seeking public comment on the rules.

The finalized rules came in two parts on Monday, one for religious exemptions and one for everything else. The first of today’s final rules provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to entities that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. The second final rule provides protections to nonprofit organizations and small businesses that have non-religious moral convictions opposing services covered by the mandate. The religious and moral exemptions provided by these rules also apply to institutions of education, issuers, and individuals. The Departments are not extending the moral exemption to publicly traded businesses, or either exemption to government entities.

Despite the fact that these regulations do not ban any drugs or devices or prohibit any employer from covering contraceptives, it’s actually going to severely restrict the reproductive rights of women, and it’ll disproportionately affect those who are poor.

The new rules took effect on Wednesday, and the timing was no coincidence, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.  The timing of the announcement — one day after the midterm elections — is expected to buoy antiabortion activists who see the Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives as a blow to their cause.

“All pro-life gains made by this administration will come under fire, and we will no doubt see efforts to expand taxpayer funding for abortion as well as the erosion of conscience rights,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.

As the Patheos reported in May last year, the ironic thing about those regulations is that, by signing such an order, Trump and his Religious Right enablers would be ensuring that more women get abortions down the line. Researchers have already shown a “decline in unintended pregnancies” since the Affordable Care Act was implemented. Trump would be reversing that.

The rules take effect 60 days after their publication in the Federal Register.

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