The news coming just minutes ago that the Trump administration has issued new regulations, through the Health and Human Services Department, that would widen the option for more employers to exempt themselves from the mandated contraception coverage of the Affordable Care Act. This provision of the law has been hotly debated and spawned several court cases as religious organizations and companies sought exemption from covering birth control in health insurance for employees because it stands against their religious beliefs.
The Washington Post reports on the change:
With this new change by the Trump administration, and the Affordable Care Act still the law of the land, we’re likely headed back to court over the issue:
The new rule is almost certain to spark fresh litigation. The National Women’s Law Center — which estimates that in 2013 alone, the contraception requirement saved women $1.4 billion in oral contraceptive costs — has vowed to challenge the Trump administration in court. It plans to argue that the new policy amounts to sex discrimination, since it will disproportionately affect women. It also plans to allege religious discrimination, arguing that it will allow employers to impose their religious beliefs on employees.
Axios news reports that the new exemptions are broad:
Key points: These are broad exemptions.
-Allowing exemptions based on a “moral” objection is a big step. Previous exemptions and carve-outs were limited to employers’ religious beliefs.
-When the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby should be able to get an exemption from the mandate, it limited its decision to companies that are closely controlled by a few people. Hobby Lobby, for example, already closed on Sundays and otherwise reflected the faith of its owners. These new rules will allow any company to seek an exemption.
The change from a “religious” objection to a “moral” objection is what will send this issues back to the courtroom. Judges will be tasked with deciding whether a “moral objection” can hold as much weight as a “religious objection.” I wouldn’t be surprised if a Federal judge puts a stay on this new regulation while the matter is litigated.