Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to block the Trump administration from unilaterally undermining a signature Affordable Care Act feature—widely guaranteed contraception without a co-pay.
Under the Protecting Access to Birth Control Act, the administration’s bombshell rules providing religious and moral exemptions for any employer “shall have no force or effect, and shall be treated as though such rules had never taken effect,” according to yet-to-be-filed bill text. An estimated 62.4 million cisgender women and an untold number of transgender and gender nonconforming people rely on the popular birth control benefit as of 2017, at a $1.4 billion savings on birth control pills alone in 2013.
Democrats in the GOP-controlled U.S. Congress can’t stop the Trump administration from axing the birth control benefit and pursuing other discriminatory reproductive health-care policies through their regulatory war; that’ll be up to the courts, where lawsuits challenging the administration are underway. But through legislation, Democrats can publicly oppose such policies and foment public opinion against them. In the first days of the Trump administration, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act to repeal Trump’s expanded global gag rule prohibiting U.S. foreign aid to organizations that provide abortion care abroad using their own funds.
Now, the Protecting Access to Birth Control Act puts members of Congress on the record against unraveling one of the law known as Obamacare’s most popular provisions. A new Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 46 percent of registered voters strongly support and 20 percent somewhat support requiring health insurers to cover contraceptive care. Such findings are consistent over time. In 2015, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 86 percent of adults across party lines backed policies that ease access to “the full range of birth control methods” for people aged 18 and older; 71 percent backed the same for teens.
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The Democratic legislation brings together lead sponsors Reps. Diana DeGette (CO), Louise Slaughter (NY), Judy Chu (CA), and Lois Frankel (FL) in the House of Representatives and Sens. Patty Murray (WA) and Bob Casey (PA) in the Senate. DeGette and Slaughter co-chair the House Pro-Choice Caucus; Murray is a vocal advocate of reproductive rights, while Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat, typically supports contraception.
“President Trump wants to make birth control about ideology, but let’s be clear: For women and their families in the 21st century, birth control is about being healthy and financially secure—and that’s why Democrats are going to keep fighting back against his shameful attacks on women with this bill and any other way we can,” Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said in a statement.