Democrats Plan to Repeal Trump's Birth Control Exemption After Supreme Court Ruling
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that sides with the Trump administration's choice to exempt employers from providing their workers with free contraceptive left Democrats so furious, a group of women lawmakers immediately planned to file legislation to undo the high court's verdict.
The four House Democrats plan to file the Protect Access to Birth Control Act Thursday to repeal a Trump administration guidance that permits employers to cite religious or moral reasons to opt out of the mandate under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act that requires companies to offer health insurance that includes no-cost birth control.
"A decision about whether to use birth control is one that should be between a patient and their doctor—and no one else," the lawmakers said in a statement. "Giving an employer the ability to interject themselves in that decisions—by limiting a patient's access to free birth control—is unconscionable."
The group is led by Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and includes Representatives Diana DeGette (D-Col.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Lois Frankel (D-Fla.). Similar measures have been pushed by DeGette and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the past but failed to advance in Congress.
"We aren't going to sit back and allow this court, or this administration, to put the health and well-being of millions of Americans at risk," the four Democratic women wrote. "We are going to continue to fight against these dangerous rules in any way we can."
However, the proposal is unlikely to make it anywhere in Congress past the Democratic-led House. The GOP-controlled Senate is not expected to consider any such legislation, and even if it did, Congress would be unable to muster a veto-proof majority.
Toward the start of his presidency, Trump issued new rules, which will now be allowed to take effect in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, that gave his administration broad discretion for which companies could be exempted from the contraceptive mandate.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, determined that Congress' writing of the ACA offers the Trump administration "virtually unbridled discretion" when determining exemption, adding that it was "Congress, not the [administration], that declined to expressly require contraceptive coverage in the ACA itself."
Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented along with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, concluded that the court ruling "leaves women workers to fend for themselves."
This was the third time that the birth control provision of the ACA reached the Supreme Court. Notably, the court ruled in 2014 in a case involving Hobby Lobby that forcing family-owned corporations to pay for contraceptives violated religious liberty.
Democrats were quick to characterize the 7-2 ruling on Wednesday as one that undermines women's health care rights while Republicans lauded the decision as a win for religious freedom.
White House Press Secretary Kaleigh McEnany said the decision "vindicated the conscience rights of people of faith."
"This Administration will continue working to protect healthcare, including contraceptive healthcare, for the American people. Unlike the last administration, however, we have the courage of our convictions: We are allowing women who lack access to contraceptive coverage because of their employer's religious beliefs or moral convictions to more easily access such care through the Title X program at little to no cost," she said in a statement. "Ensuring that women receive the healthcare they need does not require banishing religious groups that refuse to surrender their beliefs from the public square."
The Trump administration and Republican state attorneys general are currently in the midst of litigation to knock down the ACA in its entirety, despite the lack of contingency plan amid a global pandemic.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said the health care law mandating no-cost birth control is "morally and constitutionally wrong."
Conversely, top Democrats and pro-choice advocates noted that government estimates predict upwards of 100,000 women may now be forced to pay out-of-pocket costs for contraceptive, which disproportionately impacts the less wealthy and women of color.
"Fortunately, the disastrous regulations that the court upheld today can be reversed by a new president," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "They also can and should be reversed right now by Congress through the Protect Access to Birth Control Act."