December 2018 Church & State | People & Events

The Trump administration continued its efforts to undermine women’s reproductive rights and religious freedom Nov. 7 by issuing final rules that would allow employers and universities to cite religion as justification to deny women access to birth control coverage.

Americans United immediately vowed to fight the new regulations.

“This administration is weaponizing ‘religious freedom’ to justify hurting the millions of women who depend on contraception for their health and equality,” said AU President and CEO Rachel Laser. “Bosses shouldn’t get to impose their religious beliefs on their employees, nor should universities on their students.

Added Laser, “Religious freedom is a core American value. So is a woman’s right to make her own decisions about health care. The Trump-Pence administration’s action today betrays both. We will continue to fight on behalf of women whose access to affordable birth control is at risk.”

The Trump administration rules would allow employers to circumvent an Obama-era religious accommodation to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and leave women with no access to affordable birth control. Under the Obama-era accommodation, religiously affiliated institutions and even some for-profit businesses with religious objections to birth control can opt out of the ACA’s contraception benefit; the government then works directly with insurers to ensure employees continue to have access to no-cost birth control. But some employers object to even signing the opt-out form, and the Trump rules mean they no longer would have to comply with the opt-out procedure.

In June, Americans United, the National Women’s Law Center and the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with co-counsel Macey Swanson LLP, filed Irish 4 Reproductive Health v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the U.S. District Court in Northern Indiana against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor and the University of Notre Dame. The lawsuit challenges the Trump-Pence administration’s interim final rules, which were first announced in October 2017 and were the basis for the final rules.

The lawsuit also challenges an unlawful settlement agreement between the Trump-Pence administration and Notre Dame to deny students, employees and their de­pendents insurance coverage for birth control guaranteed to them by the Affordable Care Act. The groups brought the suit on behalf of student group Irish 4 Reproductive Health and others insured under Notre Dame’s health plans.