Trump Admin Lets More Employers Use Religion to Deny Workers Birth Control

The Trump administration is “vastly expanding” exemptions to federal birth control requirements, allowing even more corporate executives to use their religious beliefs to deny employees women’s health services.

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The new rules were issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today:

The rules would let a broad range of employers — including nonprofits, private firms and publicly traded companies — stop offering free contraceptives through their health insurance plans if they have a “sincerely held religious or moral objection,” senior agency officials said on a call about the implementation and enforcement of the new rules.

Trump changed the rules with a pair of executive orders, which have already been condemned by a number of prominent organizations, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The secular advocacy group called the move “religious liberty run amok.”

Under the new rules, which take effect immediately, any employer, including publicly traded companies and even universities, can claim a religious objection to providing birth control to employees. The Trump administration claims the twin executive orders “protect religious liberty.”

This is religious liberty run amok, contends FFRF. Religious liberty does not mean the freedom to force your dogma upon unwilling employees who themselves do not share these scruples.

“As it has for millennia, religion is being used to oppress women,” notes FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Employers have no business sticking their noses into intimate health decisions by women workers. It’s outrageous.”

FFRF Co-President Dan Barker also pointed out the absurdity of claiming “that a company can have a religious belief.”

One group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, actually announced plans to sue the Trump administration to block the new regulations allowing employers to refuse to cover birth control as part of their health insurance plans.

“Religious freedom is about fairness — it does not give anyone the right to deny women access to birth control. The Trump administration’s regulations violate the First Amendment and are a huge step backward for women’s health and equality,” said Maggie Garrett, Americans United’s legislative director.

AU will go to court to directly challenge the Trump administration’s regulations so that these students and other women like them don’t lose access to critical health care. Americans United also plans to file comments on the regulations.

Other groups, like the Religious Right group Alliance Defending Freedom, actually cheered the executive orders as a win for “First Amendment freedom.”

“This guidance will help prevent families like the Vander Boons in Michigan who were threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government.

This isn’t a surprise. Trump announced in May he would do something like this. But now it’s real, and it’s affecting women all over the country starting today. Hopefully lawsuits like the one being brought by AU will help stop this unilateral order, which takes rights away from women in the name of faith. We are going back in time.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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