A back-lit container of Organon’s birth-control medicine Desogen (Photographer: J B Reed/Bloomberg News)

Trump's Harmful and Unwanted Rule on Contraceptives

(Bloomberg View) -- Better access to contraception under Obamacare has measurably improved women's health, finances and lives. The Trump administration's move to reverse these gains is wrong.

The Affordable Care Act has required employer-provided health insurance to cover the cost of birth-control pills and devices without co-pays. Women who were previously unable to afford them gained control of when and under what circumstances they have children. This has helped lower the number of abortions. Women's out-of-pocket savings have run to $1.4 billion a year. Lessening the health consequences of unintended pregnancies, a good thing in itself, has also cut costs for Medicaid and private insurance alike.

Those gains are now to be cast aside. The recommendation from the National Academy of Medicine, that the government has a compelling interest in seeing that American women have access to contraception, is void, according to the Trump administration, if the employer objects for religious or other "moral" reasons. This reasoning is false: Employers with genuine religious cause to object already had a way to opt out, without harming female employees at large.

One more thing. This abrupt and destructive new policy is not what Americans want. More than two-thirds -- including a majority of Republicans -- say they favor the requirement that employers cover the full cost of birth control.

Legal challenges have already begun. Regardless of whether the courts decide the new rules are unwarranted or discriminatory, the change will take effect without delay. According to the administration, the need to lift the burden from employers who object to contraception coverage is too "important and urgent" to wait. By the way, the change comes just before employers conduct their fall benefits enrollment.

The administration says the change may affect contraception coverage for about 120,000 women. That's probably an underestimate, but in any case that would be 120,000 too many. It's to be hoped that companies, concerned to retain the loyalty of their employees, ignore the option to harm their staff that the administration has just given them.  

--Editors: Mary Duenwald, Clive Crook

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net.

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