Congressional defeat leads to executive action on healthcare, birth control

The sugar pill just got some not-so-sweet news.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new rules on Friday, Oct. 6, that allow religious employers to stop offering contraceptives through health insurance plans depending on religious or personal beliefs. A separate set of regulations also made possible for organizations with “sincerely held moral convictions” to deny birth control coverage.
However, health plans offered by public universities like Georgia State are not eligible for such exemption.
Erin C. Fuse Brown, Georgia State College of Law professor, said that previous Supreme Court rulings allowed closely held corporations and religiously affiliated nonprofits to deny contraceptive coverage on religious grounds. The new rules issued by the Trump administration allow these and other businesses to deny coverage on both religious and moral grounds.
“These exemptions are broader than the prior rule, which did not allow for “moral” objections,” Fuse Brown said.
These rules, effective immediately, cater to organizations that object to Obamacare coverage for health care services like contraception. But HHS said the rules would not affect an overwhelming majority of the American population, according to CNN.

Following the department’s new rules, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit the day of the rules’ release and other advocacy groups plan to legally challenge the law as well. The regulations come months after the Women’s March, where thousands of women across the nation took to the streets warning the administration to stay away from their rights to birth control.

Brown said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not explicitly require coverage for contraceptives. The contraceptive mandate is based on HHS rules that can be changed by the Trump administration, he said.

“The ACA requires health plans, including employer-based plans, to cover a list of preventive services identified by HHS without cost-sharing for the individual,” Brown said. “Under President Obama, HHS issued a rule that these preventive services include all FDA-approved contraceptives and contraceptive devices.”

More Exemptions

Under President Obama, a limited number of employers could cease paying for contraceptives for religious reasons. However, health plans would still be responsible for the costs of covering contraceptives.

The rules issued by the Trump administration create broader exemptions that grant more employers the right to deny coverage on both religious and moral grounds.

New HHS provisions mean private colleges and universities can withhold birth control coverage in their student health plans.

Decreased coverage would require women to pay more out of pocket for effective contraceptives like Intrauterine Devices (IUD). These expenses would make contraceptives out of reach for many individuals, according to Brown.
Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson released a statement to The Signal on the Trump administration’s decision to exclude birth control coverage:

“The Trump administration’s decision reverses a purely political mandate implemented by the previous administration that regularly chose to legislate by executive order rather than through the Congress,” Isakson said. “Our nation was founded on religious freedom, and the Obama administration’s rule directly conflicted with the basic principles established by our Founding Fathers in order to advance a political agenda.”

‘The Children of the Missed Pill’ Effect

The Washington Post took a closer look at what happened in Chile when birth control prices saw sharp increases. In an October 2017 research paper, Tomás Rau, Miguel Sarzosa and Sergio S. Urzúa looked at the impact the price jump had on the country’s population. The result was that the weekly birth rate increased by 4 percent.

“Moreover, we find evidence [of] significant deterioration of newborn health as measured by the incidence of low birthweight and infant mortality,” the report states. “In addition, we document a disproportional increase of 27 [percent] in the weekly miscarriage and stillbirth rates, which we interpret as manifestations of active efforts of termination in a country where abortion was illegal.”

Furthermore, the research pointed to more children born to unmarried mothers.