Will employers drop birth control coverage after rule change?

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A decision from the Trump administration is making a major change to initiatives under the Affordable Care Act, and it could have a big impact on women.

A change in federal regulations will allow any company to stop providing free birth control to women if they have religious or moral objections.

The Department of Health and Human Services says no one “should be forced to violate” their conscience to follow health care laws.

“A lot of people do agree that the government should not be dictating what private businesses should do on this,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values. He says 25 million Americans work for churches or organizations already exempt from providing birth control coverage.

But groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor — a religious institute for women — have been in court, along with 200 other organizations for years, citing religious objections. Saenz says the first change in coverage will be from them.

“I think that’s what we’ll see. I think that’s why that number was put out specifically by the White House when they released their information sheet on this issue,” said Saenz.

Stacey Pogue, a policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, said, “For a lot of women, especially low income women, affording contraception can be a real struggle.” She wrote in a blog post Friday that some women will have to pay out of pocket because their birth control won’t be covered; up to $60 a month for the most expensive pill, up to $1000 for an IUD.

However, she says many large companies will likely choose to continue coverage because covering birth control is cheaper than covering unplanned pregnancies.

“It saves a lot of money on prenatal care, labor and delivery, infant health care costs, all of which the insurance company would be paying for,” said Pogue.

She says it’s difficult to know exactly the impact because it’s so broad and your specific case will be up to your employer.

The new regulation is part of the president’s push to change the federal approach to religious freedom. In May, President Trump signed an executive order allowing for broad exemptions. After signing the order, Trump said he wanted to give churches back their voice.

Just hours after the order, which takes effect immediately, several lawsuits have already been filed. That includes suits filed by the attorney general of Massachusetts, the National Women’s Law Center, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union.

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