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Trump poised to take contraception fight in a dramatic new direction

Donald Trump is overhauling the ACA's contraception policy -- and millions of women aren't going to like what the GOP administration has come up with.
Image: President Donald Trump waves before delivering keynote address
U.S. President Donald Trump waves before delivering keynote address at Liberty University's commencement in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., May 13, 2017. 

The Affordable Care Act's approach to contraception shouldn't be especially controversial. Under "Obamacare," contraception is covered as standard preventive care that insurers are required to provide. Houses of worship are exempt, and thanks to the Supreme Court's 5-4 Hobby Lobby ruling, that exemption is quite broad.

But according to Donald Trump's administration, it's apparently not quite broad enough. Vox reported this week:

The Trump administration is apparently preparing to overhaul Obamacare's birth control mandate, purportedly allowing any employer to seek a moral or religious exemption from the requirement, according to a draft regulation obtained by Vox.The Affordable Care Act requires nearly all employers to offer health insurance that covers access to a wide array of contraceptive methods. The draft proposal, if finalized, would significantly broaden the type of companies and organizations that can request an exemption. This could lead to many American women who currently receive no-cost contraception having to pay out of pocket for their medication.

According to the policy, as drafted, literally any American employer could claim a moral or religious objection to birth control and overrule the ACA's contraception guarantee.

All of this would be the result of administrative, not legislative, policymaking. When drafting the Affordable Care Act, Congress did not specify what would constitute women's preventive care benefits; it was up to Obama administration officials to come up with the list, which ended up including contraception, domestic-abuse screenings, breastfeeding equipment, etc.

With this in mind, changes are now in the Trump administration's hands -- with no new legislation necessary.

As a New York Times report added that the president himself initiated this change a month ago with an executive order instructing cabinet agencies to examine existing regulations to "address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate." Preventive health services for women were specifically referenced, making clear where the debate was headed.

It's not yet a done deal -- the Trump administration has to finalize and adopt the new regulation -- but once the rule is complete, it will be national policy and the rollback will be complete.

Add it to the "elections have consequences" list.