THE KRAMER FILE--The Trump administration is continuing its mission to unravel President Obama’s legacy, this time, rolling back the ACA mandate that employer-provided health insurance policies cover birth control at no cost to women. (President Trump shakes hands with a nun from Little Sisters of the Poor.)
The new rules were published Friday in the Federal Register, which means they immediately went into effect. The new rule allows companies or nonprofits to apply a religious or moral exception to contraception. Health policy experts say this law could be stretched to allow any employer to claim an exemption.
The Catholic religious order The Little Sisters of the Poor sued the Obama Administration over the mandated coverage -- which launched a clash between equal rights activists and advocates for religious freedom. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit against the Trump Administration, citing violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The Department of Health and Human Services under President Obama had included "all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity."
The Trump Administration faces a one-two punch as California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a suit Friday in a San Francisco federal court.
“Therefore, millions of women in California may be left without access to contraceptives and counseling and the state will be shouldering the additional fiscal and administrative burden as women seek access for this coverage through state-funded programs.” -- California suit.
The suit also charges the rollback violates the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause. In Lemon v. Kurtzman (1970), the Court issued a three-part barometer to analyze Establishment Clause for a particular law, which was upheld in a 2000 ruling.
- Does the law have a secular purpose? If not, it violates the Establishment Clause.
- Is the primary effect either to advance religion or to inhibit religion? If so, it violates the Establishment Clause.
- Does the law foster an excessive governmental entanglement with religion? If so, it violates the Establishment Clause.
If any of these three factors are not met by a law, the law violates the Establishment Clause.
Since January, Att. Gen. Becerra has filed over 24 legal actions that challenge Trump’s policy changes. In a statement issued Friday, Becerra said, “Donald Trump wants businesses and corporations to control family planning decisions rather than a woman in consultation with her doctor,” Becerra said in a statement Friday. “These anti-women's health regulations prove once again that the Trump Administration is willing to trample on people’s rights.”
Opening the door to pick and choose health care policy leads to poor health care options for women, as the GOP’s prior proposals included an allowance to remove maternity coverage, as well as other benefits for women. Birth control is the best hedge against unwanted pregnancies and the spread of The Pill in the sixties paved the way for women to fully enter professional life.
This also paves the way for religious-based discrimination. The founders were quite clear that the government shall not promote one religion over another or over no religion. As the Trump Administration continues to roll over rights to either accommodate certain religious groups or to wash away President Obama’s legacy, we must rely on organizations such as the ACLU, and the good efforts of the state of California to protect our citizens.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a CityWatch columnist.)