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Trump administration rolls back Obamacare birth control mandate, restricts plans covering abortions

On Wednesday, the Trump administration issued final rules that allow more exemptions for organizations to opt out of providing no-cost contraception to women, and to prevent taxpayer-subsidized abortions. (Tim Matsui/Getty Images)

The Trump administration introduced sweeping changes to the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare on Wednesday, finalizing new rules that would roll back mandated coverage for contraceptives and place tighter restrictions on insurance plans that cover abortions.

What are the details?

Fox News reported that the Department of Health and Human Services announced the changes, which allow religious organizations, nonprofits, and small businesses to opt out of providing Obamacare's mandated free birth control under moral objections.

HHS released a statement, saying, "The religious and moral exemptions provided by these rules apply to institutions of education, issuers, and individuals. The Departments are not extending the moral exemption to publicly traded businesses, or either exemption to government entities."

The same day, the Trump administration also introduced rules restricting Obamacare plans that cover abortion, aiming to ensure taxpayer money isn't used to subsidize the practice.

Opposition groups have already vowed to challenge the changes in court.

"Today's outrageous rules by the Trump Administration show callous disregard for women's rights, health, and autonomy," Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center, told Politico on Wednesday.

"By taking away women's access to no-cost birth control coverage, the rules give employers a license to discriminate against women," Graves continued. "We will take immediate legal steps to block these unfair and discriminatory rules."

Pro-life advocates hailed the new rules, with Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser issuing a statement saying, "Today President Trump and HHS Secretary [Alex] Azar delivered a huge victory for conscience rights and religious liberty in America."

"No longer will Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor be forced by the government to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans," she continued. "Not only that, moral objectors, such as Susan B. Anthony List, will also no longer have to pay for life-ending drugs that are antithetical to their mission and for which we have argued there is certainly no 'compelling state interest.'"

What's the background?

In a news release, HHS explained that originally "the Affordable Care Act did not require contraceptive coverage in health insurance. It did not require the government to violate religious or moral objections to providing or purchasing such coverage."

The Affordable Care Act was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2010.

In 2011, "the Departments issued regulations and guidance requiring non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related education and counseling," the HHS statement continued.

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