Keeping a promise to conservatives, Trump administration guts Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate


JUDY WOODRUFF: The Trump administration today announced a change in health care policy that could affect hundreds of thousands of women's access to contraception.

Lisa Desjardins explains.

LISA DESJARDINS: These new rules about contraception policy are long, 163 pages. Read through it all, and there are two key points.

One, this takes effect immediately. Two, now, most employers can be exempted from providing birth control coverage for their workers, if they have either religious or moral objections. This is part of a pledge the president made to conservatives.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: For too long, the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith.

LISA DESJARDINS: Under the Affordable Care Act, contraception must be covered as preventative care, and it must be no-cost to patients.

More than 60 million American women ages 15 to 44 use contraception, and, for them, Obamacare has meant it is covered and free. It has also been a hot topic in court. The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that one group of businesses, Hobby Lobby and private closely-owned businesses, could also drop contraception coverage.

But under today's rule, essentially, all employers with objections can drop that coverage. For female employees, it would go from no-cost contraception to full retail cost.

How many people would be affected? Not clear. The Health and Human Services Department says 160,000. Women's health groups say it could be much higher. Those on the right say this doesn't block access to contraception. It just means it will not be free. Those on the left argue that, for low-income women, adding cost does block access.

The Trump administration says it changed the rule, in part, to end lawsuits from those who say it attacks religious rights. But, already, there are new lawsuits from those who say it attacks women's rights.

For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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