News broke in May that the Department of Housing and Human Services is planning to create a rule that would allow religious organizations, non-profit, and even for-profit companies to cease offering coverage for birth control. The decision to roll back Obama-era rules would dramatically increase the number of women who would lose birth control coverage, and reproductive rights groups are already preparing to take the matter to court, Talking Points Memo reports.
After a memo about the rollback was leaked in May, advocates for reproductive access and care learned that companies and organizations would not only be able to cease birth control coverage on religious grounds, but also “moral” grounds. The latter term hasn’t been defined for the public by the administration, but it has activists and legal experts worried about just how much leeway the new administration’s rule would provide employers.
Talking Points Memo reports that the new rule could be put into place essentially at any time; it’s just a matter of when the Department of Health and Human Services says “go.”
Bracing for what seems like the inevitable, lawyers with organizations such as the ACLU and the National Women’s Law Center are getting ready to take the rule all the way to Supreme Court if necessary. ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri told Talking Points Memo that the rule would violate the Constitution in several ways, chiefly based on sex-based discrimination.
Amiri explains that birth control medication is taken almost exclusively by women, and thus the rule targets “something that allows women to achieve equality in society.” If the HHS successfully rolls back the rule requiring no copay for birth control prescriptions, TPM estimates that roughly hundreds of thousands of women would lose their birth control coverage.
Kaylie Hanson Long, the National Communications Director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, tells Brit + Co that the organization is especially concerned that the HHS has so far not opened the draft of their rule up to the public. Hanson Long says that this is another example of the ways that the Trump administration has worked to silence women, cutting them out of conversations that are vital to their health and well-being.
NARAL will continue to monitor movement on the rule, and plans to continue advocating to expand and protect reproductive rights, especially on the state level.
Some states are already working to vastly expand access to birth control. Colorado, a state often heralded for effective public school sex education, now allows patients to obtain birth control from a pharmacist, rather than requiring a prescription from a doctor. Further, the state now permits women to get an entire year’s worth of birth control at once, eliminating frequent trips to the pharmacy and potential disruptions in taking the pill.
Several other states, including New York, Minnesota, Illinois, and Washington DC, have legislation pending on similar policies that would make it easier for women to get birth control.
Following the initial HHS memo leak in May, Washington state also acted to protect birth control coverage. Senator Patty Murray introduced legislation to safeguard employer birth control coverage, and was praised by NARAL Pro-Choice America.
According to a statement from the reproductive rights organization, these types of laws send “a strong message to Trump and anti-choice legislators across the country that no matter how much they attack us, we won’t give up. Instead, we’ll rise up in defense of the policies that allow us to take control of our own bodies and lives. ”
Lawyers, state legislators, and advocates are already taking action in case the Trump administration yanks birth control coverage from many thousands of women, but there are still ways the rest of us can get involved too. Hanson Long says it’s more important for women to make their voices heard now than ever. She recommends moving beyond simply saying “no” to Trump, and saying “yes” to state efforts to protect birth control access. Rallying around forward motion and calling state legislators will keep the pressure up and demonstrate the need and support for affordable reproductive care.
What are your thoughts on actions to protect employer coverage of birth control? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.
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