The New York Times reported yesterday that the Trump administration is doing exactly what you'd expect: reversing the protections for birth control coverage that made it available to patients without a copay. With new rules written by a lawyer with ties to anti-abortion groups (so you know this isn't about public health), the Trump administration will now allow employers to refuse to offer coverage for birth control. This isn't just religious employers, either—the new rules specify that employers with "moral" objections can also deny coverage.
The justification for the new rule is shaky to say the least. The Times notes that "the Trump administration lists health risks that it says may be associated with the use of certain contraceptives, and it says the mandate could promote 'risky sexual behavior' among some teenagers and young adults."
The idea that birth control access encourages promiscuity is a myth. And the idea that because a kind of medicine has health risks, people should have higher barriers to being able to use it, is an odd one—most medicines have health risks. But not being able to prevent pregnancy, or not being able to use birth control to treat an existing health problem, would both seem to be much riskier behaviors than those the Trump administration purports to be concerned about.
But then, the anti-abortion movement's entire raison d'etre is a project in bad faith. Anti-abortion groups aren't interested in maternal or fetal health. They're interested in cutting off access to abortion and birth control through militant measures like this one. Make no mistake: This is government overreach in its worst form.
It also isn't particularly pro-life. The thing about birth control is that increasing access to it actually has been shown to reduce abortion rates. Cut off access and you risk the opposite. And making people pay out of pocket for birth control is cutting off access—just ask anyone who's ever had to pay for an IUD out of pocket.
The Obama administration's birth control mandate was groundbreaking, but it also simply wrote into law what we already knew: Birth control is a necessary part of health care. It's also quite literally medicine, and refusing coverage for medicine used by patients who aren't cisgender men effectively marginalizes everybody else.
Vox has a draft of the new rule if you're curious (I was), as well as a good explainer of how religious employers have responded to the ACA.
What's especially galling in all of this—and a good point made in the Vox coverage—is that an exemption for religious groups that didn't want to touch birth control was already built into the ACA. It's just that some didn't think it went far enough. Hobby Lobby took their objections all the way to the Supreme Court. But an IUD isn't an abortion and paperwork isn't persecution. I'm appalled that the government is catering to fringe religious interests over what doctors have ruled is necessary care. If you needed confirmation that the Trump administration hates women, well, I think you've got it. It's also important to note that access disparities tend to hit women of color and low-income people the worst. Good policy makes people's lives better. This is the opposite. It will likely do real and lasting harm. Remember this in 2018. I know I will.