Earlier this month, on November 7, the Trump administration announced that it overturned a part of the Affordable Care Act that required employers to provide contraception coverage for their employees even if it conflicts with their moral or religious beliefs. Now, weeks later, the administration offers a proposed rule that will supposedly help these women obtain free contraception: they can become legally classified as “low-income” and use the already resource-strapped Title X program.
The proposed rule says that women denied contraceptive coverage by their employers would be eligible for the family planning program created by Congress in 1970 under Title X of the Public Health Service Act—regardless of their actual income. Per The New York Times:
The proposed rule says that “a woman can be considered from a ‘low-income family’ if she has health insurance coverage through an employer” that, for religious or moral reasons, refuses to cover the contraceptives she seeks.
Clinics in that program serve four million people a year, primarily low-income women and adolescents. Clinics must give priority to members of low-income families, defined as those with annual incomes less than or equal to the poverty level ($20,780 for a family of three).
Demand for clinic services already exceeds what can be provided with the available funds, $286.5 million a year.
In response to the proposed rule, Clare Coleman, president and chief executive of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, told The Times that the proposal would “hijack Title X programs and use their limited federal funds to subsidize employers’ refusal to comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement.”
The National Women’s Law Center estimates that more than 55 million cisgender women and an unknown number of transgender and nonbinary individuals would be affected by the move to let employers deny coverage for contraception. On the eve of a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in January, The Times reports that there will be challenges to the contraception rules:
Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, has tried to block the new family planning rule. Her efforts were stymied by Republicans this year, but Ms. Lowey is in line to become the chairwoman of the committee next year, giving her more leverage over the administration.
This is not the first time that the Trump administration has tried to alter how Title X programs operate. In May, the government presented a proposed rule that would ban health care providers from mentioning or referring patients for abortion care. Planned Parenthood, which serves 41 percent of all patients receiving care under Title X, will be greatly impacted if this policy, called a “domestic gag rule” by many reproductive health advocates, is finalized.