The Republican-controlled US Congress may have failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, but the Trump Administration is still attempting to dismantle some of its core features. In October, for example, the White House announced that it would end the bill’s birth control mandate which requires businesses to provide free contraceptive coverage for their employees.
Under the terms of the Trump Administration’s new regulations, nearly any employer can now claim a moral or religious exemption to the birth control mandate. Although religious groups could claim exemptions in the past, this regulatory rollback makes it much easier for employers of all kinds to avoid providing their employees with birth control coverage.
Just a few months after the rollback was announced, a federal judge in Pennsylvania has blocked the Trump Administration from enforcing the new rule, citing legal, economic and public health concerns. Because the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has argued that the president “can’t simply ignore it with an illegal rule.”
Judge Wendy Beetlestone, who issued the request for a preliminary injunction, had this to say about the court’s decision:
“The Commonwealth’s concern is absent available cost-effective contraception, women will either forgo contraception entirely or choose cheaper but less effective methods—individual choices which will result in an increase in unintended pregnancies. That in turn will inflict economic harm on the Commonwealth because unintended pregnancies are more likely to impose additional costs on Pennsylvania’s state-funded health programs.”
Unintended pregnancy rates, particularly among teenagers, have fallen to historic lows since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010. Now, state lawmakers and judicial officers are on the front lines of a fight to preserve these strides and ensure all women have access to affordable, effective birth control options.