The Republican’s plan to repeal and replace Affordable Care Act is a health care nightmare for women. For starters, the proposed American Health Care Act, which was narrowly approved by the House but awaits decision in Senate, categorizes majority of women’s issues as “pre-existing conditions” – including sexual assault, rape, domestic abuse, C-section or even pregnancy.
Since women face most of these problems, the bill would allow insurance companies to either charge female recipients higher premiums or outright deny the coverage.
As if that’s not enough, President Donald Trump and his administration also plan to defund Planned Parenthood in an attempt to appeal their conservative fan base that believes a nonprofit low-income healthcare provider uses taxpayer money to provide abortion services, which is not true. In fact, federal funding is only used to provide the myriad other health services needed by low-income patients.
Keeping all this in mind, it should not have come as a surprise that the White House would decide to go after birth control coverage as well, but alas, it did.
The New York Times recently reported the White House Office of Management and Budget is following through with a religious liberty executive order Trump signed on May 4. The draft would roll back an Obama-era measure that requires most employers to cover birth control in their health insurance plans at no cost to women.
“We welcome today’s executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to reexamine the previous administration’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services mandate, and commend President Trump for taking a strong stand for religious liberty,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price said in a press release. “We will be taking action in short order to follow the President’s instruction to safeguard the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who provide health insurance to their employees.”
The details on the upcoming executive order remain a little fuzzy. It is unclear how exactly the rule would affect some 55 million women who are currently using birth control without paying for it out of their pockets as the draft is being kept under tight wraps.
However, given Trump administration’s antagonistic policies towards women and their health care rights, it would be sensible to brace for the worst.
“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,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, calling the move “sickening.”
“Without health coverage of contraception under the [Affordable Care Act], countless women will lose their basic right to prevent pregnancy and plan when they have children,” explained Nancy Northup, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Plain and simple: President Trump’s executive order will hurt women. And the Center for Reproductive Rights is ready to fight back in court.”
Former President Barack Obama’s mandate for free contraceptive coverage has been a hot-button issue, particularly among religious groups, since its implantation in 2012. In 2015, the former administration had to alter the contraception coverage rule to accommodate the female employers who worked for religious organizations or businesses, directing them to third-party insurers instead.
It also generated the famous The Little Sisters of the Poor's lawsuit, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this year, Trump directed the health department to re-examine the rule.
ACA supporters in the Senate have penned a letter to Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney.
“We write to urge you to cease any efforts related to President Trump’s May 4th Executive Order that would undermine access to affordable preventive services including contraception for women,” the letter reads. “Access to affordable preventive services including contraception is a critical part of women’s health care, as well as an economic priority for many women. It should be treated as such.”
Earlier this year, a study published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health scholarly journal revealed the abortion rate in U.S. reached a lower level in 2014 since the procedure first became legal in 1973.
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