“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions intoned during Friday’s announcement of a new rule that takes effect immediately and enables all employers – for-profit or nonprofit – to refuse to cover the cost of contraception by invoking religious or moral objections.

He’s quoting his boss, using the very words President Donald Trump used in May when he signed an executive order announcing his plans to offer employers “regulatory relief” from the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate.

But the Trump administration is catering to one group of Americans at the expense of another. Whether or not women employees share their bosses’ religious beliefs, they’re being forced to accommodate them. Their needs don’t count. Neither does their constitutional right to access reproductive health care without the impediment of religiously motivated discrimination.

Under the new Department of Health and Human Services rule, any employer with a “sincerely held” religious or moral objection to contraception can stop offering birth control. The federal government doesn’t have to vet those objections for sincerity (companies can halt coverage just because they don’t feel like paying for it). What’s more, companies that have opted out are no longer required to allow workers to access co-pay-free birth control coverage directly from insurance companies. So millions of American women who get employer-sponsored insurance may lose all contraceptive coverage – forcing them to either pay out of pocket or forgo the well-known benefits to their health and financial stability they get from being able to plan their pregnancies.

What’s particularly maddening is that the ACA has never brushed off religious objections to the birth control mandate. Religious nonprofits have long been allowed to opt out of it. They had to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of their objection, and the government would arrange for their insurer to provide coverage directly, without a co-pay and without the employers’ involvement.

Aside from the religious objections, the Trump DHHS – which is packed full of believers in misinformation about birth control – says that the rollback is needed to keep access to birth control from encouraging “risky sexual activity” among teens and young adults. (The fact that far fewer teens are having sex or giving birth today than in the 1980s would seem to lead to the opposite conclusion.)

But it’s obvious that this isn’t about the facts. It’s about (again) catering to the president’s base. And it would be almost laughable if the implications for women’s lives and health weren’t so serious.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: