Trump Slashes Birth Control Requirements
President Trump has directed the Department of Health and Human Services to expand exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) birth control coverage requirement beyond those previously offered by the Obama Administration.
He Can Do That?
Yes, he can. The ACA’s inclusion of a birth control mandate set off a series of hard-fought legal challenges culminating in Burwell v Hobby Lobby, in which the Court ruled that “closely held,” ie private, companies could claim religious exemption from the the requirement. This resulted in the creation of an exemption framework complete with forms and papers to file which, in turn, required administration by the Executive Branch, ie: the President.
President Trump is changing the rules by which those exemptions are granted and expanding eligibility for filing so that any employer can file for religious exemption, even large, publicly held ones like IBM and Disney.
What Can The Courts Do About It?
Not much. The Trump Administration rule is actually two rules, one which broadens the exemption and one which defines a new moral framework above and beyond what the Court required. There are already lawsuits in progress which will attack the broadening of the exemption but the new moral framework will be much tougher to attack in court. The Supreme Court is unlikely to rule that the Executive Branch is working too hard to protect first amendment rights.
What Can Congress Do About It?
Because the policy change hinges upon the Executive Branch’s interpretation of the ACA and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v Hobby Lobby, Congress could pass legislation which restricts to whom exemptions could be offered.
That might seem like a non-starter for the Republican dominated 115th Congress, but polling suggests otherwise. A Public Religion Research Institute poll back in February of 2017 found that just 30% of Americans oppose contraceptive requirements for employers while 67% favor them.
What Can I Do About It?
Contact your Congressmen and Senators to tell Congress what you think. You can text RESIST to 50409, or just click here to tell your Representatives or Senators what you think about this or any other issue before Congress