Federal officials, under orders by President Donald Trump, have drafted a rule to roll back the Obama-era mandate that birth control be included under all employer insurance plans.
On its website, the White House Office of Management and Budget said it is reviewing an “interim final rule” to relax the requirement, a step that would all but ensure a court challenge by women’s rights groups.
“We think whatever the rule is, it will allow an employer’s religious beliefs to keep birth control away from women. We are sure that some women will lose birth control coverage,” Gretchen Borchelt, the vice president of the National Women’s Law Center, told the New York Times.
If the Trump administration does not adequately explain and justify the rule, she said, it could be challenged as “arbitrary and capricious,” in violation of federal law. In addition, she said, women could challenge it as violating a section of the Affordable Care Act that broadly prohibits discrimination in health programs that receive federal funds.
Ms. Borchelt also pointed to a little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act that says the health secretary shall not issue any rule that “impedes timely access to health care services” or “creates any unreasonable barriers to the ability of individuals to obtain appropriate medical care.”
“Under the current rules, implemented under President Obama, birth control coverage is considered part of preventative medical care and must be covered by all insurers with no co-pay. The mandate has guaranteed an estimated 55 million women access to birth control and other preventative services at no additional cost to them, regardless of their employer.
In 2013, the mandate saved women $1.4 billion on birth control pills, and since the law went into effect, there has been a nearly 5 percent uptick in birth control subscriptions, according to the NWLC. The increased access to contraceptives has also correlated with a sharp drop in unintended pregnancy and abortion rates.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly supports the mandate. “Access to contraception is a medical necessity for women during approximately 30 years of their lives,” the group said.
“Without question, contraception is an integral part of preventive care; women benefit from seamless, affordable access to contraception, and our health system benefits as well,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said in a statement about the mandate. “ACOG strongly believes that contraception is an essential part of women’s preventive care, and that any accommodation to employers’ beliefs must not impose barriers to women’s ability to access contraception.”
According to a recent survey by polling firm PerryUndem, 33 percent of American women said they couldn’t afford to pay any more than a $10 copay for their birth control. Fourteen percent said that if they had to pay for birth control at all, they couldn’t afford it.