Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) Religious Liberty Advisory Council released a set of recommendations last week that included a call for the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control benefit.
The initial recommendations outline a set of 15 legislative and executive actions meant to “restore … freedom of religion” in the United States.
“Unfortunately, this freedom has been systematically undermined and even assaulted under the policies of the current administration and previous Congresses,” the chair of Cruz’s council, Family Research Council’s (FRC) Tony Perkins, told Fox News.
The council’s list of recommendations push so-called religious liberties to justify blocking access to contraception and legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people. This includes instructing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to eliminate the birth control benefit and its requirement that employers offer FDA-approved contraceptive methods as “minimal essential coverage” through the ACA.
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The advisory council would push to expand accommodations for those who object to that mandate “for moral or religious reasons” to include all employers, not just churches and other religious organizations.
Studies have found out-of-pocket costs for those accessing contraceptives have fallen drastically since the implementation of the ACA’s birth control benefit in 2012. Health-care analysts charge that the benefit may have helped drive down rates of abortion and unintended pregnancies in the United States.
Cruz’s council recommended an executive order protecting those who oppose marriage equality from “discrimination” based on their beliefs, modeled after the First Amendment Defense Act—legislation Cruz co-sponsored in 2015. The Republican presidential candidate already signed a pledge to the Heritage Action for America, the American Principles Project, and Perkins’ FRC, vowing to pass and sign the measure into law within his first 100 days in office. The FRC is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
The council called for rescinding Executive Order 13672, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. According to ThinkProgress, the 2014 executive order “requires companies that contract with the federal government to have a policy against discriminating against LGBT people. By vowing to rescind it, Cruz is blatantly endorsing such discrimination and promising to subsidize it with taxpayer funding.”
Cruz’s council also aims to direct all federal agencies to “stop interpreting ‘sex’ to include ‘sexual orientation’ and/or ‘gender identity’ where the term ‘sex’ refers to a protected class in federal law” to be “prioritized” at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Such a move would have serious repercussions,” wrote Sarah Jones in an analysis of the council’s recommendations for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “If these recommendations become policy, LGBT Americans would face an immediate reduction to the few federal protections they currently enjoy.”