The Trump administration quietly settled more than 13 lawsuits with 74 different employers this week when it promised them they wouldn’t be forced to provide birth control to women who work for them.
The move nullifies a battle that has been raging in the courts in the five years since then-President Obama’s landmark healthcare bill, the Affordable Care Act, made contraception coverage mandatory by all employers.
Religious affiliates have argued they shouldn’t be mandated to provide coverage for something that violates their beliefs — one case, Zubik v. Burwell, even reached the Supreme Court this year, but the justices kicked it back to the lower courts for a ruling. This settlement takes the decision away from the courts and likely opens the door for dozens of similar cases of employers trying to get out of providing birth control for women.
What’s more is the settlement permanently guarantees that the government will never be able to force these employer’s to provide birth control — regardless of the regulations or administration in power.
With this settlement, “the government agrees that they will not enforce the [Obama] administration regulation or any materially similar one that may come down the pike in the future.”
“We’d be vulnerable to having to do this all over again in 10 years or eight years,” John Quincy Masteller, general counsel for Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic school that settled with the Trump administration told Vice News in discussing what could happen if the settlement didn’t guarantee a future administration can’t later mandate religious employers provide contraceptive coverage.
The settlement is the latest hit in a series of moves against reproductive healthcare for women by President Donald Trump’s administration this month — on Oct. 6 Trump rescinded the Obamacare birth control mandate requiring employers provide contraceptive coverage for employees.
It’s intended to exempt religious organizations, but women’s health advocates say a barrage of other employers could use the move to justify declining contraceptive coverage on the basis of unspecified moral objections.
Organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are fighting back as the Trump administration tries to peel back healthcare gains for women.
“Women shouldn’t have to pay for their employers’ decisions not to cover contraception,” said Sara Rose, staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Employees shouldn’t be at the mercy of their employers’ religious and moral beliefs when it comes to getting necessary healthcare.”