New Court Rulings Keep the Birth Control Mandate in Place

Reproductive rights supporters received good news last week, as the courts ruled against a Trump administration attempt to block birth control access and indirectly harm abortion providers.

A federal court in California first obstructed President Donald Trump’s effort to dismantle the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act on January 14. The ruling stated that the new policy of allowing expanded religious objections to the ACA’s birth control mandate should not go into effect until the courts have decided whether the rule is constitutional.

That court, which put the new White House rule on pause for 13 states in the nation, was soon followed by another judge’s ruling in Pennsylvania that blocked the new policy completely.

NPR reports:

US District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia imposed a nationwide injunction Monday which has wider effect than a similar ruling issued Sunday by a federal judge in California. In her ruling, Judge Beetlestone said states would be harmed by the Trump administration’s policy because women who lost contraceptive coverage would seek state-funded services.

The birth control mandate was a key — and highly popular — plank in President Barack Obama’s insurance reform actions in the ACA. By making all contraceptive methods available without a copay, those who have insurance either through their employers, private plans or plans on the public exchange are all able to obtain whatever birth control option best suits them without fear of cost.

This has led to an uptick in long-lasting reversible contraceptives, such as IUDs and implants, which were often too expensive for many to afford out of pocket on their own.

The religious right, on the other hand, vehemently opposed the mandate under “moral” concerns. Conservatives complained about the “31,700 and 120,000″ people who would be able to prevent pregnancy with medically sound contraceptives rather than just hoping abstinence and avoiding sex during ovulation would work out.

David French at the National Review lamented:

The regulatory impact analysis indicated that it would affect between 31,700 and 120,000 women nationwide. For perspective, there are approximately 74.6 million women in the civilian labor force. The Trump religious exemption would therefore affect between 0.0004 percent and 0.0016 percent of the female workforce. And, keep in mind, each one of the affected women has voluntarily chosen to work for her employer. There are ample alternative choices if these women choose to prioritize contraception access in their employment decision.

Yes, because it’s so simple to vet your employer’s religious beliefs and incorporate that into your employment or schooling decisions.

While conservative religious groups are disappointed by the ruling, not all religious organizations feel the same. Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice reminds Americans that not every religious person believes birth control is a sin — including many members of the same faiths who have advocated for being able to veto employees’ birth control options in the first place.

In an email statement, RCRC said:

The Trump Administration is looking at religious freedom through the wrong end of the telescope. No wonder its view is so distorted. To the administration, it appears conservative Christians need more protection for their religious views than the rest of us, especially on reproductive issues. This turns Trump’s brand of religious freedom into a smokescreen for discrimination on religious grounds.

Real religious freedom honors each person’s right to believe what they wish without negative consequences from government. Based on shared interfaith principles, RCRC has always supported individuals’ right to follow their own conscience in making reproductive decisions. We’re pleased the courts stopped employers from putting their own religious beliefs before the beliefs and needs of their workers.

The next stop for the administration policy will no doubt be the Supreme Court — a court that is now by far more conservative than the one that ruled in favor of religious employers in the “Hobby Lobby” case.

So enjoy the victory for now — and if you are seeking it out, get your no co-pay contraception while you can. Who knows how long this injunction will last.