President Donald Trump is making good on his campaign promise to roll back the federal mandate requiring religious employers to provide access to birth control as part of their health insurance coverage.
The requirement that employers provide access to contraception was one of the most contentious aspects of the Obamacare bill and resulted in a number of lawsuits by religious groups that argued the mandate violated their religious freedom.
The White House Office of Management and Budget announced on its website that it is reviewing an interim final rule to loosen the requirement, a move that is sure to elicit challenges in court by women’s rights advocacy groups, The New York Times reported Monday. The rule change could go into effect as soon as it is published in the Federal Register, but federal agencies usually take public feedback on rule changes and can modify the rule accordingly.
Trump made his intention to roll back the birth control mandate clear on May when he signed an executive order that instructed three cabinet departments to “address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.” After signing the order, Trump celebrated in the White House Rose Garden with representatives from the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order that took its challenge of birth control mandate to the Supreme Court.
“With this executive order we are ending the attacks on your religious liberty” Trump told the Little Sisters at the Rose Garden gathering.
The executive order signed in May and the recent rule change fulfill a promise Trump made in a letter to the leaders of Roman Catholic organizations.
“I will make absolutely certain religious orders like the Little Sisters of Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs,” Trump wrote in the October letter.
Democrats in Congress have vowed to mount a staunch opposition to Trump’s efforts to roll back guaranteed access to contraception. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and 13 other Democratic senators condemned Trump’s roll back of the birth control mandate in a letter to White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on May 26.
“Women saved more than $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs for birth control in 2013 alone,” the senators said in the letter, according to The New York Times. “Access to affordable preventive services, including contraception, is a critical part of women’s health care.”
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