Hundreds of thousands of women could lose birth control benefits they now receive at no cost under the Affordable Care Act.

By Faith Brar
Updated: October 07, 2017

Today the Trump administration has issued a new rule that will have huge implications for women's access to birth control in the United States. The new directive, which was first leaked in May, gives employers the option not to include contraception in their health insurance plans for any religious or moral reason. As a result, it will roll back the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that guarantees FDA-approved birth control coverage to 55 million women at no cost.

Having insurance plans cover birth control puts a "substantial burden" on the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the Trump administration told reporters in a statement on Thursday night. They also added that granting free access to birth control could promote "risky sexual behavior" among adolescents, and they hope this decision helps put an end to that.

"No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system," said Caitlin Oakley, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement.

The ACA was the first to mandate that for-profit employers must cover a full range of contraceptives, including the Pill, Plan B (the morning-after pill) and the intrauterine device (IUD), at no additional cost to women. Not only has it been credited for bringing unplanned pregnancy rates to an all-time low, it also contributed to the lowest abortion rate since Roe v. Wade back in 1973, all thanks to providing better access to birth control.

Now, based on this new rule, nonprofits, private firms, and publicly traded companies have the right to opt out of including coverage in their health insurance plans based on moral or religious-based reasons, regardless of whether the company or institution is religious in nature itself (e.g., a church or another house of worship). This will force women in the United States to once again pay for basic preventative health care out of pocket if their employer doesn't feel comfortable about providing it. (Ready for more bad news? More women are googling DIY abortions.)

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards slammed the decision. "The Trump administration just took direct aim at birth control coverage," said Richards in a press release. "This is an unacceptable attack on basic health care that the vast majority of women rely on."

Senior Health and Human Services officials are claiming only about 120,000 women will be affected, with 99.9 percent of women still able to access free birth control through their insurance, reports the Washington Post. These estimates are reportedly based on the companies that have filed lawsuits over being forced to pay for birth control.

But the Center for American Progress (CAP) believes this new rollback in coverage could open "the floodgates" to "nearly any private employer refusing to cover birth control." Of all the companies that are requesting exemptions from offering birth control, 53 percent were for-profit institutions that could now deny coverage, the group reported in August.

"The data is only a small slice of those seeking the right to deny coverage, but they demonstrate that this debate isn't about houses of worship or faith-based organizations wanting accommodations," said CAP's Devon Kearns in a statement obtained by USA Today. "A change in the rule would enable even more for-profit corporations the ability to make getting birth control more difficult."

Meanwhile, ob-gyns aren't optimistic about what it will mean for women if the Trump administration continues to attack health care rights and do things like trying to force Planned Parenthood out of business. These actions could easily lead to a rise in teen pregnancy, illegal abortions, STIs, and deaths from preventable diseases, not to mention contributing to the already egregious lack of quality care for low-income women.

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