The Trump administration plans to roll back a birth control provision of the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act. Based on a leaked draft regulation, the administration may allow any employer to deny its employees birth control coverage based on religious grounds.
On May 31, Vox obtained a leaked Trump administration regulation that proposed broadening the religious exemption that the ACA extended to religious institutions and closely-held companies. If enacted, the new rule would allow virtually any employer in the U.S. to opt out of covering birth control in its health care packages.
Written on May 23, the draft asserted that broadening the religious exemption "removes religious and moral obstacles that entities and certain individuals may face who otherwise wish to participate in the healthcare market."
The ACA mandated that companies include birth control in their health care plans. While religious institutions were exempted from the rule, religiously-affiliated businesses were not.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held corporations could not be forced to provide birth control coverage under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The IRS defines "closely held corporations" as for-profit companies with a small or limited number of shareholders, according to the Pew Research Center.
The Trump administration rule would extend those RFRA protections to all corporations, regardless of whether they are closely held. The draft regulation would require businesses to notify their employees before rescinding their birth control coverage and would permit individuals to refuse a health care plan that offered birth control.
"It's just a very, very, very broad exception for everybody," said health law professor Tim Jost of Washington and Lee University. "If you don't want to provide it, you don't have to provide it."
Currently, 55 million female workers in the U.S. save $1.4 billion in health care costs a year under the ACA birth control mandate.
Senior counsel Mark Rienzi of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty praised the Trump administration regulation, asserting that it would be a victory for religious freedom.
"At long last, the United States government has acknowledged that people can get contraceptives without forcing nuns to provide them," Rienzi told USA Today. "That is sensible, fair, and in keeping with the president's promise to the Little Sisters and other religious groups serving the poor."
Dana Singiser of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America blasted the potential regulation, deeming it discriminatory.
"The rule would mean women across the country could be denied insurance coverage for birth control on a whim from their employer or university," Singiser noted.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray issued a condemnation of the potential rule.
"By allowing employers to deny women affordable birth control, President Trump is telling women their health and economic security do not matter," said Murray, according to The Daily Beast.
The regulation is currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget. ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri warned that her group would take legal action if the rule was implemented.
"This is a draft, so we need to wait to see what the final form is before deciding what action to take," Amiri said. "But if the rule is enacted as written, we will be filing a lawsuit."