Blame Trump, Not the Supreme Court, for Birth Control Limits
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday on insurance coverage for contraceptives will make it harder for tens of thousands of American women to get birth control. The court ruled that the Trump administration has the authority to allow more kinds of employers to claim exemptions to the Obamacare mandate that their health insurance fully pay for contraceptives.
But what’s lawful isn’t necessarily good policy — and Trump’s policy on insurance and contraceptives is wrong.
Before Trump intervened, churches, temples, mosques and companies with genuine religious objections were exempt from the Obamacare requirement that employer insurance include free birth-control coverage. Their employees could still get no-cost access to birth control directly through insurance companies. The Trump administration widened the exemption to include a wider range of employers, enabled them to opt out on moral as well as religious grounds, and eliminated the workaround for employees. The Court says the administration can lawfully make this change.
That doesn’t make it right. No-cost access to effective birth control is plainly in the public interest. It greatly reduces unwanted pregnancies, lowering the number of abortions and saving billions in health-care costs for women, Medicaid and private insurance. Nobody with a religious objection to contraceptives is obliged to use them, and under the terms of the compromise policy that prevailed under President Obama, employers with a religious objection didn’t have to pay extra for the coverage.
By the government’s own estimate, the new policy will deprive 70,500 to 126,400 women of access to free contraception. Many women cannot afford to pay out of pocket, so unwanted pregnancies stand to rise.
Despite the new ruling, the legal wrangling might not be over. The states that challenged the Trump rule — New Jersey and Pennsylvania — could very well try again, following Justice Elena Kagan’s argument that the administration may have failed to engage in “reasoned decision-making.” Meantime, states can correct the policy, too, by setting their own mandates for health insurers to fully cover contraceptives. Many already have.
The ideal remedy, however, rests not with the courts or the states. Citizens can set things straight themselves, by voting in November for a president who won’t make bad policy just because he can.
Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.
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