The Biden administration in late January unveiled a proposal to take steps to restore contraceptive access to students and workers that were put in jeopardy during the presidency of Donald Trump.
The Trump-era rules allowed employers and universities to cite religious or moral beliefs to deny birth control access guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act. Under the proposed Biden rules, access would be restored.
Americans United hailed the move.
“We applaud the Biden administration for proposing critical changes to the Trump-era birth control rules,” Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, said in a statement. “Religious freedom is a core American value. So is the right to make our own decisions about reproductive health care. Today’s proposed rule is a positive step toward protecting both.”
Laser noted that the Trump-era rules “undermined church-state separation and weaponized religious freedom to justify hurting people who depend on contraception for their health and equality.” The change proposed by the Biden administration, she said, “seeks to improve people’s access to contraceptive services no matter where they work or study.”
Added Laser, “Americans United has worked tirelessly to bring an end to Trump administration policies that sought to transform religious freedom from a shield that protects people into a sword to harm others. We’re pleased that the Biden administration has proposed to roll back many harmful Trump-era regulations that deal with birth control access, denial of medical care, and religious freedom protections for people who rely on government-funded services. While there is more work to be done, these are important steps on the path toward a country that promises freedom and equality for everyone.”
The Trump-era birth control rules are the subject of pending litigation filed by Americans United, along with the National Women’s Law Center, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the law firm Macey Swanson LLP. The lawsuit, Irish 4 Reproductive Health v. HHS, was filed in 2018 on behalf of University of Notre Dame students, employees and their dependents who lost contraceptive access due to both the Trump rules and an unlawful, backdoor settlement agreement between the Trump administration, the university and more than 70 other religiously affiliated organizations to settle previous lawsuits over birth control insurance coverage benefits.
The Irish 4 Reproductive Health case is the only litigation that’s been brought on behalf of people who lost birth control access, and it is the only lawsuit challenging the secret settlement agreement.