Trump Carves Out More Religious Exemptions in Obama's Contraceptive Mandate

Posted: Oct 06, 2017 12:45 PM

The Trump administration has rolled back another Obama-era regulation. No longer will employers be forced to provide contraception coverage under their health plans, freeing them from violating their religious consciences. The Department of Health and Human Services issued the new rules Friday.

The rules would let a broad range of employers -- including nonprofits, private firms and publicly traded companies -- stop offering free contraceptives through their health insurance plans if they have a "sincerely held religious or moral objection," senior agency officials said on a call about the implementation and enforcement of the new rules.

This could apply to the roughly 200 entities that have participated in about 50 lawsuits over birth control coverage, according to the agency, which said that "99.9% of women" who currently receive birth control through the contraceptive mandate would not be affected. At the time of the call, it was unclear how the administration arrived at this data point.

Under President Obama, birth control was considered preventive care and had to be included on employees' health plans. The administration offered partial exemptions for religious nonprofit groups, but Trump's HHS has vastly broadened the opt out option.

Religious freedom advocates and pro-life groups are cheering Trump's announcement. 

"Americans United for Life applauds the actions of the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that the right of conscientious employers and employees not to participate in or provide abortion-causing drugs is protected in law," AUL President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster said in a statement. "Millions of Americans want no part of an insurance system that subsidizes the destruction of innocent human life, and HHS’s new interim regulation respects that principled stand.”

The Catholic Association applauded Trump for protecting Americans from an overbearing government.

"Today’s action is more than regulatory relief for people of faith, it is a ray of sunshine signaling to faithful Americans that they need not fear government bullying like that endured by the Little Sisters of the Poor," the group said.

Little Sisters of the Poor, you'll remember, took the Obama administration to court over the law that would have violated their beliefs. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, as expected, feminist groups are decrying the decision and are accusing Trump of "turning back the clock."

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