The Trump Administration issued interim final rules by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor that would allow nearly all employers to deny their employees insurance coverage for contraception if the employer expresses a moral objection.
The new regulations would roll back existing regulations created by the Obama administration, that require employers to offer health insurance that covers all FDA-approved contraception, including medications, devices and sterilization procedures.
The changes came under fire by women’s rights advocates who say employers have no right to dictate whether workers have sex or children and making access to birth control a financial burden essentially allows them to do that.
“More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate implemented by the Obama administration,” said Lisa McCormick, a vocal advocate of women’s rights. “Under the Trump administration regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose those benefits. Many of them could be victims of unwanted pregnancy as a result.”
Under this guidance, clerks in the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs who object to homosexuality could refuse to process benefits to a widow in a same-sex marriage, according to David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign.
“This is a very sweeping expansion of religious discrimination by the federal government, and we think it goes beyond where federal law is,” he said.
Vanita Gupta, a top civil rights lawyer at the Justice Department during the Obama administration, said: “The freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it is not an absolute right. It cannot be used as a shield to permit discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. Americans, just as federal courts a half century ago denied the ability of businesses and employers to use their religious beliefs as a basis to discriminate against African-Americans.”
Gupta called the new policy “a direct attack on women’s rights.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is filing a lawsuit challenging the rules issued by those federal agencies on behalf of members of the ACLU and Service Employee International Union-United Health Care Workers West (SEIU-UHW) who are at risk of losing their contraception coverage because of where they work or where they go to school.
Kate Rochat is an ACLU member who is a law student at the University of Notre Dame and who stands to lose her access to contraceptive health care because of the rule.
“No woman should ever be denied health care because her employer or university’s religious views are prioritized over her serious medical needs,” said Rochat.
“Today the Trump-Pence administration launched an all-out assault on LGBTQ people, women, and other minority communities by unleashing a sweeping license to discriminate,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “This blatant attempt to further Donald Trump’s cynical and hateful agenda will enable systematic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families.”
In its lawsuit, the ACLU argues that the interim rules violate the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by authorizing and promoting religiously motivated and other discrimination against women seeking reproductive health care.
The ACLU is joined by co-counsel Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP as well as the ACLU of Northern California, Southern California, and San Diego in bringing forward the lawsuit.
“The Trump Administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’s religious beliefs,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri. “We’re filing this lawsuit because the federal government cannot authorize discrimination against women in the name of religion or otherwise.”
Dave Regan, the President of SEIU-UHW, said, “With the stroke of a pen, the Trump administration has shamelessly attempted to rip away the rights of untold numbers of women to receive essential healthcare, under the warped facade of ‘religious freedom.’ Apparently, ‘religious freedom’ to this administration is the freedom to allow bosses to make medical decisions for and discriminate against female employees. Women in the workplace need compassionate care, not doors slammed in their faces by their employers.”
The ACLU legal complaint is available online at:
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