The Republican party’s assault on reproductive rights has a new ally in the Republican replacement for Obamacare.
According to a leaked draft of the latest version of the American Health Care Act, AKA Trumpcare, if passed, the legislation would give employers a field day when it comes to birth control access to employees. If passed in its current form, the AHCA would allow employers to opt out from providing insurance coverage for birth control and contraceptives.
“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 bill achieves this by loosening up the rules currently in place, making it possible for virtually any employer to make a religious or moral claim that exempts it from providing birth control.
This is in direct response to the SCOTUS decision against christian corporation Hobby Lobby. When Obamacare was implemented, many Christian organizations argued that allowing their employees access to comprehensive birth control was a violation of their religious beliefs and fought for exemptions.
Though a compromise was reached (select religious providers could opt out of providing the birth control, but it would be provided directly by the insurance company to the employee), conservatives are still unhappy that insurance may cover vital health supplies for family planning.
As a result, the AHCA is looking to overcorrect, allowing any business to claim religious or moral exceptions and opt out.
Employers seeking an exemption would not be required to notify the government, under the drafted rule, though they would have to make clear in their health plan documents that they do not cover contraception and would be required to notify their employees of any change in benefits.
The rule, as drafted, would also allow health insurers to refuse to cover contraception for religious or moral reasons, though the administration noted it was not aware of any health insurers that have those objections. It would also allow individuals to object to participating in a health plan that covers birth control.
Currently, one in eight American women receive free birth control through the ACA, a number that would certainly change if employers were given an easy out.
Under this current rule, what protections are in place if all employers, including insurance companies themselves, decided to claim a moral or religious objection to providing birth control? Might women be left with no birth control at all? It’s an extreme statement, but it’s a reality – if we allow such imprecise language and flimsy rules to take the place of political expediency, the most vulnerable will suffer.