Trump Rescinds Obamacare Birth Control Mandate

Oct 9, 2017
Originally published on October 9, 2017 8:19 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And the Trump administration is making it easier for employers to opt out of covering birth control in their health insurance plans. The coverage was guaranteed under the Obama administration with the exception of employees at some religious organizations. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Trump administration is leading by example on religious liberty. But this was a troubling development for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. And its president Cecile Richards is on the line. Good morning.

CECILE RICHARDS: Good morning.

GREENE: Let me just talk through the impact of this. The Trump administration said Friday that 99 percent of women will still have the same access to birth control. And they said less affluent women can still get free or subsidized contraceptives through Medicaid and other programs. I mean, do you agree with those numbers. Or what's your estimate for the number of women who might be affected by this?

RICHARDS: Well, David, I mean, it's incredibly ironic that they would now refer to programs that they've been trying to end through Trumpcare for the last, you know, several months - access to, you know, Planned Parenthood, access to Medicaid and access to the Family Planning Program. And the basic fact here is that millions and millions of women - now about 62 million women - have access to birth control and their insurance plan at no cost. And it's led to amazing successes. Women have saved a lot of money. The estimates are 1.4 billion dollars alone the first year. We've reduced unintended pregnancy - the lowest rate of teen pregnancy in the history of the United States. And women are getting better birth control. All of these are good things. They allow women to plan their families and stay in the workforce. And this decision is basically now going to turn the reins over to your boss to decide whether or not women can get birth control. And that's just not going to be good for women.

GREENE: But do you expect a lot of bosses to actually change that much? I mean, the Trump ministration is saying that this, in terms of numbers, is probably going to have very little impact. I mean, do you accept that?

RICHARDS: Well, one, I don't think they - they don't - certainly don't know. And in fact, I mean, all of the things that they have put out are messages that send - that basically say birth control is dangerous for women, which is really crazy. More than 90 percent of women in this country use birth control for a whole host of reasons. I think the problem is, you know, we fought so hard under Obamacare to get women equal access to health care, including family planning. Because until that bill passed, many, many employers did not provide birth control for women. And again, women are now half the workforce in this country. And a big reason that we've been able to participate and work and go to school is because we've been able to plan our families. And that's really what's at risk here. And frankly, the Trump administration has been on a war against birth control and women's health from day one.

GREENE: You feel like they're sending a message that birth control can be dangerous because it seems the message they're sending to some is that this is a matter of religious liberty and employers not being forced to, you know, sacrifice their religious beliefs.

RICHARDS: Well, I mean, that's not - this is not what that rule says. The rule basically says if any employee or objects to birth control, they don't have to provide it. And look. I think the problem is - you look who's been in charge of Health and Human Services with the Trump administration. It has been filled with key positions, folks who have been against birth control from the very beginning. In fact, ironically, the woman who was appointed to run the National Family Planning Program has said herself she doesn't believe in birth control. This is just the beginning. And I think many of us expect this will not end here. There are rumors of all kinds of other ways in which they're going to restrict birth control access. And I just don't understand it. It's good for women's health. It's good for the economy. And this kind of attack is something that you would have expected in the 1930s, not in 2017.

GREENE: And we just have a few seconds left. But I mean, the Obama administration issued this mandate to cover birth control. Religious organizations filed suit. The Supreme Court ruled that the government can't force private companies, nonprofits to pay for birth control against their religious beliefs. Are you concerned that the law is on the administration's side here?

RICHARDS: Well, I mean, obviously we'll be challenging it along with the ACLU, and that's really important. But there were all kinds of accommodations made for a religious employer. The danger is you have things now like universities that provide birth control for women that are students. You have all kinds of organizations who may have their own political or religious views. Why should they be able to impose that on American women? It's simply not right. And we'll be fighting it every step of the way and ensuring that women continue to get birth control at Planned Parenthood.

GREENE: Cecile Richards is the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. We appreciate your time this morning. Thanks a lot.

RICHARDS: Good to see you, David. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.