ACLU suing Trump administration over new rules denying birth control coverage

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration's decision to amend the requirements under Obamacare, that employers (apart from houses of worship) provide insurance to cover their female employees' contraception, on Friday. The rules expand the types of entities that can claim moral or religious exemptions to the so-called birth control mandate.

Among other legal precedents, the new regulation cites the 2014 Supreme Court case brought by Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts store, which ruled that federal religious freedom laws protected certain types of private companies from having to pay for insurance coverage for contraception.

Of the more than 200 groups that filed lawsuits in opposition to the Obama-era mandate, there were a handful from North Texas, including Criswell College and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

Gretchen Borchelt, with the National Women's Law Center, says the Trump rules are a blow for women's health and rights.

The rules, which take effect immediately, would grant exemptions to employers whose religious or moral beliefs conflict with providing contraceptive coverage.

Advocates for women's health and civil rights expressed opposition to the change in the contraception-coverage rules.

Becket and ADF are both representing institutions that have challenged the HHS mandate's failure to provide an adequate accommodation for their religious beliefs. The state of MA also sued, and the California attorney general said he planned to.

Friday, the conservative Faith and Family Foundation heralded the rules as a welcome departure from eight years under the Obama administration, which it said "trampled on the First Amendment rights of people of faith (and) persecuted Christians who objected to taking innocent human life", along with taking the Little Sisters of the Poor to court.

Millions of women who now receive birth control with no co-payments could be affected by the move.

The long-expected revision is Trump's latest step towards rolling back former US President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

The regulations leaves in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraception coverage to low income women.

The issuance of what are described as "interim final" rules came five months after an executive order from President Trump directed the secretaries of three federal departments to consider revising rules to protect the religious freedom of the mandate's objectors. "Where's the religious freedom for women working for the company?" asked Janet Realini, a physician and president of Healthy Futures of Texas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing teen pregnancies. It's still a specious argument that gets more contradictory the more you dig in to what else employers will cover and how those may contradict scripture, but at the very least, there is a nugget of truth underwriting religious opposition to stuff like this. Before it went into effect, about 21 percent of women ages 15 to 44 with employer-provided health coverage reported spending their own money on birth-control pills, according to Kaiser.

The government also said imposing a coverage mandate could "affect risky sexual behavior in a negative way".

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