Con­ser­va­tives thrilled by con­tra­cep­tive roll­back

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Con­ser­va­tives are cheer­ing on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­ported plans to let any em­ployer duck Oba­macare’s con­tra­cep­tive man­date by claim­ing a re­li­gious or moral ob­jec­tion.

The bold roll­back was de­tailed Wed­nes­day by Vox, which ob­tained a draft pro­posal that has en­raged Democrats and some civil lib­er­ties groups who say a woman’s right to birth con­trol is be­ing threat­ened.

Un­der the leaked plan, em­ploy­ers who as­sert a good-faith ob­jec­tion to hav­ing their in­sur­ance plans pay for con­tra­cep­tion would be ex­empt so long as they no­tify their em­ploy­ees of the change, the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Depart­ment says in a May 23 draft pro­posal.

For now, only houses of wor­ship and cer­tain grand­fa­thered em­ploy­ers are ex­empt. Oth­ers must in­sure a range of con­tra­cep­tives at no cost to fe­male em­ploy­ees or, in some cases, sign an opt-out form. A Catholic or­der of nuns and other re­li­gious non­prof­its are chal­leng­ing that “ac­com­mo­da­tion” in court as it­self mak­ing them com­plicit in what their churches teaches as sin­ful.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has fought the nuns in court, but the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has proved far more sym­pa­thetic to ob­jec­tors.

“At long last the United States govern­ment has ac­knowl­edged that peo­ple can get con­tra­cep­tives with­out forc­ing nuns to pro­vide them,” said Mark Rienzi, se­nior at­tor­ney at Becket, which rep­re­sents clients in re­li­gious lib­erty cases.

The White House bud­get of­fice is re­view­ing the rule be­fore it is pub­lished and thus im­ple­mented, and it is un­clear if the plan has changed in the past week or if the ad­min­is­tra­tion is mulling tweaks.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices spokes­woman Alleigh Marre de­clined to weigh in Wed­nes­day, say­ing the agency does not com­ment “on al­leged drafts of doc­u­ments.”

Yet HHS has con­firmed it is re­vis­it­ing the con­tra­cep­tion man­date in the wake of Mr. Trump’s May 5 ex­ec­u­tive or­der bol­ster­ing re­li­gious lib­erty.

An outgrowth of the 2010 Af­ford­able Care Act, the prior ad­min­is­tra­tion said most em­ploy­ers must pro­vide in­sur­ance that cover 18 types of FDA-ap­proved con­tra­cep­tives, in­clud­ing birth con­trol pills or the morn­ing-af­ter pill.

The Catholic Church and some other re­li­gions ob­ject to some or all con­tra­cep­tion as sin­ful, and re­li­gious-based char­i­ties sued, say­ing they should be ex­empt, just as ac­tual houses of wor­ship are.

Ad­vo­cates for the non­prof­its said the new draft Trump rule would help out the char­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor, an or­der of Catholic nuns ded­i­cated to car­ing for the el­derly, which was the most prom­i­nent group to ob­ject to the Obama rules.

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, though, said it would be un­fair to deny med­i­cal ser­vices to women based on the be­liefs of their em­ploy­ers.

“The pro­posed reg­u­la­tion that was leaked today is the lat­est in a long line of ef­forts from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to make it harder for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, par­tic­u­larly women, to get the health care cov­er­age they need,” said Louise Melling, the ACLU’s deputy le­gal di­rec­tor.

She vowed to sue if the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion fol­lows through on the draft.

Holly Lynch, a bioethics ex­pert at Har­vard Law School who closely tracks the de­bate, said the fact that HHS is mulling a full ex­emp­tion is a “re­ally im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion” for af­fected em­ploy­ees.

Un­der the cur­rent rules, re­li­giously af­fil­i­ated char­i­ties had to sign a form say­ing they didn’t want to pro­vide cov­er­age, trig­ger­ing a process where some­one else would step in and of­fer cov­er­age for free con­tra­cep­tion. The Trump draft pro­posal would al­low em­ploy­ers to ei­ther stick with that ac­com­mo­da­tion or to claim a full ex­emp­tion.

It’s un­clear how em­ploy­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the cor­po­rate world, will re­act, though Democrats pre­dicted that mil­lions of women would lose cost-free birth con­trol.

“Pres­i­dent Trump’s sick­en­ing plan to roll back women’s ac­cess to con­tra­cep­tion would deny mil­lions of women ac­cess to ba­sic, pre­ven­ta­tive health care,” said House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi. “The draft rule an­nounced today at­tempts to tear away women’s con­trol over their own pri­vate health de­ci­sions and put that con­trol in the hands of em­ploy­ers and politi­cians.”

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