On Monday, Jan. 14, a new birth control policy from the Trump administration went into effect — mostly. At the last second, the policy was blocked in 13 states by a federal judge. Nevertheless, the policy, which would have expanded the number of employers that could decline to offer contraceptives on the basis of religious and moral grounds, is a huge shift in the future of women's reproductive health. So, what does the Trump administration's birth control policy mean for you? Here's what we found out.
UPDATE: A federal judge in Pennsylvania issued a second block on the policy, stopping it from going into effect nationwide, per NBC News. U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a nationwide injunction on Monday, Jan. 14 on grounds that the policy exceeded the scope of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and would harm states, which would likely pick up the slack if women attempt to turn to state-funded services. "The negative effects of even a short period of decreased access to no-cost contraceptive services are irreversible," she said.
The Department of Justice is expected to appeal. "Religious organizations should not be forced to violate their mission and deeply-held beliefs," the DOJ said in a statement to NBC.
EARLIER: On Monday, Jan. 14, a new policy allowing employers to deny birth control coverage on moral or religious grounds went into effect, part of an ongoing rollback of birth control access under the administration. The new policy introduced by the administration has made it easier for employers to opt out of offering contraceptives and birth control on moral grounds. While previously, privately held employers with religious objections were allowed to deny birth control coverage to their employees, the new policy expands that exemption to publicly held companies.
Previously, the Obama-era Affordable Care Act (ACA) required companies to offer health insurance that covers birth control at no extra cost. However, since taking over the White House, President Trump has warned employers that he plans to cease this regulation in order to protect their rights to religious freedom. Employers will now be able to decline birth control on the basis of "moral reasons," which is just grey enough to potentially stretch past religious motives and into personal biases.
However, the move isn't hitting everyone equally. The day before the policy went into effect, a federal judge blocked it from going into effect in 13 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, per NPR. Lawsuits from these states had argued that the new policy was in contradiction to the ACA, and limited women's access to health care, instead of promoting access. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on the ruling, but did not immediately hear back.
In his ruling granting a preliminary injunction while the suits progress, Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said that the change was inconsistent with the Women's Health Amendment section of the ACA, which required insurers to provide birth control. The ruling noted that many of those whose contraception was currently covered under the ACA would see their coverage disappear and would be forced to either turn to coverage from state programs or pay out of pocket, which "will cause substantial, and irreparable, harm to the Plaintiff States," the ruling said.
According to Margarida Jorge, executive director of health care advocacy group Health Care For America Now (HCAN), the policy will have drastic results for those in states where the policy went into effect. According to Jorge, over 60 million have saved money on prescription drugs since contraceptive care became free under the Affordable Care Act. "It's no longer just religious exemptions, it's also people who have moral objections, which could be anything." Jorge told Elite Daily. "So essentially, any boss who doesn't think that his employee should have the right to birth control or has an objection can make a case that they're no longer going to provide no cost birth control for their employees."
With Trump's new policy, the number of employers who can deny employees birth control have expanded significantly, including big name corporations employing thousands of individuals. So, as this new policy comes into effect, that means hundreds of thousands of individuals could be impacted.
"We would expect to see rates of unintended pregnancy rise if people don't have access to birth control or don't have access to the most effective technology around birth control," Jorge says. "Unintended pregnancy also has a lot of consequences for women's economic and educational opportunities, so this is possibly a chain reaction."
"It's really part of a pattern we're seeing in this administration that they're trying to turn back the clock for women," Jorge says.
Jorge does find it reassuring that the policy was blocked from taking effect in highly populated states such as California and New York, but that doesn't mean that residents of these states are out of the woods. For one thing, the block is only in effect in those 13 states, as a result of them filing suits against the policy. Jorge says that individuals should learn more about what their employer's policy entails and start organizing backup options if the employer's policy threatens their reproductive health. Secondly, Jorge encourages people who are troubled by this policy — whether or not it affects you — to call their legislators and emphasize how it's a step in a backwards direction and a huge issue for individuals who use birth control.
Although Trump's policy might cast a bleak image on the future of reproductive health care, Jorge believes the fight is only getting started. To Jorge, the results of the 2018 November midterm elections represented a step in the right direction, and an encouraging sign that change is on the horizon in regards to fighting for gender equality. To little surprise, women are at the forefront of this fight.
"I don't think 2018 was a culmination, I think it was just the beginning," Jorge says. "I think we're going to see a lot more women participating in legislative activity, voting, and activism. Women have woken up in a whole different way."