In summary

The Trump administration is rolling back a contraceptive mandate that required nearly all employers to provide birth control to employees at no cost through employer-provided health insurance—and California immediately vowed to sue to retain the Obama-era regulation.

The Trump administration is rolling back a contraceptive mandate that required nearly all employers to provide birth control to employees at no cost through employer-provided health insurance—and California immediately vowed to sue to retain the Obama-era regulation.

“There is no entity more impacted with more women who would feel the harm more immediately than California,” state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said today during a call with journalists. “We’re prepared to act, including in court, and we’ll do it swiftly.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the new rules today and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memo saying that employers have a right to choose not to offer birth control.

“To the greatest extent practical and permitted by law,” the memo said, “religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment, contracting, and programming.”

This comes three years after  Hobby Lobby sued over this issue arguing it should not have to provide birth control through its insurance program because of religious beliefs. The company won that battle because the court decided closely-held private companies could be exempt from the mandate.

Under former President Barack Obama, the mandate required that contraception be provided at no cost as a preventative measure. A limited number of exemptions were granted to churches and other faith-based entities that are religiously opposed to birth control.

Experts say the change under President Trump could allow many more employers to drop coverage. That’s because the rule covers two groups: entities that hold religious beliefs and businesses that object “on the basis of moral conviction which is not based in any particular religious belief.”

Becerra called the move a violation of the First Amendment and said it constituted discriminating against women.

The National Women’s Law Center reports that over 55 million in the U.S. women obtain birth control at no cost to them through health insurance.

The ACLU and the National Women’s Law Center are also preparing legal challenges to the change.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.

Elizabeth Aguilera

Elizabeth Aguilera is an award-winning multimedia journalist who covers health and social services for CalMatters. She joined CalMatters in 2016 from Southern California Public Radio/KPCC 89.3 where she...