BY VICTORIA MESCALL
After an executive order was issued on October 6, the Trump administration is now allowing employers to opt out of no-cost birth control for workers. The policy issues sweeping religious-freedom directions that could override many anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people and others.
Employers with religious or moral qualms will be able to cover some birth control methods, and not others. Experts said that could interfere with efforts to promote modern long-acting implantable contraceptives, such as IUDs, which are more expensive.
“This rule is listing things that are not scientifically validated, and in some cases things that are wrong, to try to justify a decision that is not in the best interests of women and society,” said Dr. Hal Lawrence, CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which represents women’s health specialists.
This move is the first in a long-anticipated revision to Affordable Care Act requirements that most companies cover birth control as preventive care for women, at no additional cost. That Obama-era requirement applies to all FDA-approved methods, including the morning-after pill, which some religious conservatives call an abortion drug, though scientists say it has no effect on women who are already pregnant.
“The actual medical evidence is that it blocks ovulation,” or the release of an egg from the ovaries, explained Lawrence, the OB-GYN. “If you don’t ovulate, there is no egg to get fertilized. It’s not blocking implantation.” Therefore, the morning after pill is not an abortion pill because abortion removes a fertilized egg, of which there is not.
The Trump administration takes issue with the science behind the Obama-era decision to require most employers to cover birth control as preventive care. They also suggests there may be a link between birth control and promiscuity, citing a study finding that between 1960 and 1990, “as contraceptive use increased, teen sexual activity outside of marriage likewise increased.”
Lawrence, the OB-GYN, argued that’s a stretch. That many factors influenced the 1960s, among them changing social mores about sex before marriage.
“The world of birth control in 2018 is about as similar to the world of birth control in 1960 as a Ralph Nader Chevy Corvair is to a space shuttle,” he said.
Several state and national organizations are planning to challenge the birth-control rollback in court. The American Civil Liberties Union filed such a lawsuit less than three hours after the rules were issued on Oct. 6.
As a result of the ACA, most women no longer pay for contraceptives. That said, Mendelson said he worries the new rule will set a precedent for weakening ACA requirements that basic benefits be covered. “If you look at it as a public health issue, it is a step in the wrong direction,” said Dan Mendelson, president of the consulting firm Avalere Health.
The administration estimated that some 200 employers who have already voiced objections to the Obama-era policy would qualify for the expanded opt-out, and that 120,000 women would be affected
The Associated Press contributed to this article.