A few days after President Trump’s inauguration, he signed an executive order that fueled the GOP’s war on women’s health and reproductive rights. Several off-topic controversies later, Trump has come back to strike another blow, and this time, his quest to satisfy the GOP agenda has circumvented the Trumpcare bill‘s legislative process. As it stands, the bill is so unpopular that Trump has suggested doing away with the Senate filibuster to pass it, but in the meantime, he’s ensuring that employers are able to opt out of the Obamacare birth control mandate via a fast-tracked interim final rule.
The White House had already signaled its desire to crush the Obamacare preventative-care rule, which (in part) states that any employer must include birth control coverage as part of its health insurance plan. On Monday, the New York Times reported U.S. officials drafted a rule to eliminate this federal requirement for employers who objected on the grounds of religion. However, Vox has obtained a purported leaked draft of this rule, which indicates that the opt-out would apply to any employer, regardless of their reasoning:
“It’s just a very, very, very broad exception for everybody,” Tim Jost, a health law professor at Washington and Lee University, told Vox. “If you don’t want to provide it, you don’t have to provide it.”
The relevant language of the draft rule reads as follows:
“Expanding the exemption removes religious and moral obstacles that entities and certain individuals may face who otherwise wish to participate in the healthcare market.”
The leaked draft is about a week old, and there’s no way of knowing (unless there’s another leak, which could happen) whether or not this provision has been wiped out of the version that’s currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget. However, if this is the final form — or even close — women could see their birth-control coverage (enacted by Obamacare from a preventative-care standpoint) disappear immediately.
It’s also important to note how this pending rule doesn’t mention the swaths of women who use hormonal birth control methods to ease symptoms of endometriosis, Primary Ovarian Insufficiency, or any other number of medical ailments. Or the fact that low-income women who have babies often cost the system a lot more than birth control does. Presumably, there would be exceptions for women with medical conditions that can be treated by the Pill, but that assumption can’t safely be made in 2017. This is an era in which a president randomly tweets about #Covfefe around midnight (and answers himself the next morning), so nothing makes much sense anymore.