Leaked birth-control rule would broaden employers’ religious exemption

Women’s groups are threatening to take the Trump administration to court after a leaked, draft regulation revealed a plan to let employers opt out of providing birth control at no extra cost to women, for the employer’s religious and moral reasons.

WASHINGTON — Women’s groups are threatening to take the Trump administration to court after a leaked, draft regulation revealed a plan to let employers opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women for religious and moral reasons.

The White House refused comment, calling the 125-page document posted online by the news site Vox an “alleged draft.” A government website shows that a rule on preventive services under the Affordable Care Act — which includes birth control — is under final review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The share of women employees paying their own money for birth control pills has plunged to under 4 percent, from 21 percent, since contraception became a covered preventive health benefit under the Obama-era health law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Research has shown that contraception promotes maternal health by allowing women to space out their pregnancies, among other findings. The birth control requirement also applies to dependent coverage for wives and daughters.

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But the mandate has drawn strong and sustained opposition from social conservatives, who see it as an infringement on freedom of conscience. The Obama administration exempted houses of worship, and set up a workaround for religiously affiliated nonprofits, such as hospitals, universities and social service organizations. The Supreme Court later ruled that closely held private companies were also eligible for the workaround, through which the government arranges contraceptive coverage for the affected women employees.

The leaked draft from the Department of Health and Human Services would allow…

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