Rumors have been circulating for months that President Trump had his sights on dismantling the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, through which more than 55 million American women were able to access birth control. The mandate saved women an estimated $1.4 billion, in addition to ensuring that birth control was accessible to women of all socioeconomic standings.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was preparing to sign an executive order for the Health and Human Services Department to allow any employer, including colleges and health insurance companies, to seek an exemption from providing insurance plans offering birth control to female employees, on moral or religious grounds.
The contraceptive mandate has been in and out of court rooms since 2011, with religious groups fighting to qualify the policy as an infringement of an employers’ right to freedom of religion. It’s also controversial to the many people who are outrage with having to pay for women’s birth control, purportedly out of fiscally conservative concerns, but have yet to complain about the other health services their tax dollars go toward — services unrelated to women having autonomy over their bodies.
The Trump administration, led by a president who has non-ironically used the term “War on Christians” and a vice president who is the face of the anti-choice movement, has always been big on “religious freedom,” or at least its right-wing spin on what religious freedom means. A rule meant to protect people of all faiths is now being used to force women who can’t afford birth control to live according to the beliefs of their Christian employers.
The American Civil Liberties Union in June threatened to sue the Trump administration if the policy were to take effect, calling it “unconstitutional, both in terms of separation of church and state and discrimination against women.”
Ironically, considering the grounds upon which Trump has proposed it, the roll back would violate women’s religious freedom by allowing employers to use religion as a means to discriminate against them, and in prioritizing Christian values over a women’s right to bodily autonomy.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to imagine Trump, the anti-choice Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, or Vice President Pence, ever considering the concept of religious freedom and what it is beyond being a tool to punish Americans who aren’t Christian. And in the months since they rose to power, between an executive order to pull funding from global groups that teach about family planning and a bill allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood, it’s becoming clear that women are the ones who will suffer the consequences of this.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.