DeGette co-sponsors bill to protect birth control rights

Author: Tom Ramstack - October 22, 2017 - Updated: November 2, 2017

A pack of birth control pills. (crankyt, istockphoto)

WASHINGTON — Colorado U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette was a lead sponsor of a bill introduced Thursday to block the Trump administration from limiting women’s access to birth control.

The bill is a response to Interim Final Rules from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this month that exempt employers from some requirements to cover employees’ birth control under their health insurance plans.

“Every woman has a right to affordable contraception and President Trump’s ongoing efforts to rip this essential aspect of health care from millions is incredibly dangerous,” said DeGette, D-Denver.

The bill sponsored by DeGette and three other female Democrats in Congress would override the rules, thereby ensuring women’s access to birth control continues through their employers’ health insurance.

The bill is called the Protect Access to Birth Control Act. Two Democrats in the Senate introduced a companion bill Thursday.

Contraception requirements in employers’ health insurance were first required under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. It gave more than 55 million women access to birth control without co-payments.

Under the new Health and Human Services Department rules, hundreds of thousands of them would lose their contraception rights or at least be required to make co-payments. The rules exempt employers from birth control requirements if they claim sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions against contraception.

The attorneys general of Massachusetts and California joined others in immediately filing lawsuits to block the Trump administration rule change. They said it violated the First Amendment’s ban against government action “respecting an establishment of religion.”

DeGette, who is co-chair of the Congressional Pro Choice Caucus, was among the early critics of the rule change this month.

“A woman’s ability to access affordable birth control should not be subject to an objection from her boss, school or insurance company,” DeGette said. “This is simply not right. Birth control is health care and the Affordable Care Act’s protections were helping millions of women access it at little to no cost.”

The bill DeGette co-sponsored is one of several ongoing conflicts between Democrats and the Trump administration over Obamacare.

Another one arose Thursday when Trump signed an order making it easier for small businesses to buy no-frills health insurance for employees. The executive order allows businesses to join their purchasing power across state lines to obtain inexpensive, less regulated health plans.

However, they come with fewer benefits, which means they lack the maternity care, prescription drug coverage and mental health treatment Obamacare tried to guarantee them.

Democrats condemned Trump’s executive orders as a one-sided attempt to dismantle Obamacare.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., referred to the Protect Access to Birth Control Act when she said, “The president’s recent move to roll back the Affordable Care Act provision that has allowed women to access birth control with no out-of-pocket costs ignores the reality that birth control is health care.”

Slaughter was another co-sponsor of the Protect Access to Birth Control Act.

Tom Ramstack

Tom Ramstack