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Publically funded contraception set for challenge by the Trump administration

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With the politics in the United States still playing out on the Affordable Care Act, the White House has reportedly moved forward with a plan to cut a provision that was introduced to protect women’s reproductive rights.

The Affordable Care Act expanded contraception coverage to about 55 million women with private insurance coverage.

The Trump administration is expected to amend the Federal regulation that requires employers to provide health-insurance plans that offer preventive care and counselling – which the US Department of Health and Human Services has interpreted to include contraception – at no cost.

The expected Presidential executive order will allow any business or organisation to request an exemption on religious or moral grounds.

The Obama administration issued regulations allowing religious employers to opt out of offering contraceptive coverage. However affected employees were then covered directly by their insurers.

Gretchen Borchelt, Vice President for Reproductive Rights and Health at the National Women’s Law Center, has said that hundreds of thousands of women could lose access to their birth control “if this broad-based, appalling, and discriminatory rule is made final”.

Many family planning advocates are concerned that this policy shift will see a result to an increase in abortion rates across the US. Recent research by the Guttmacher Institute suggests that improved contraceptive use, resulting in fewer unintended pregnancies, likely played a larger role than new state abortion restrictions in the decline between 2011 and 2014.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has issued a statement that denounces any plan to roll back contraception coverage, saying that any move to decrease access to these services would have a damaging effect on public health.

“Contraception is an integral part of preventive care and a medical necessity for women during approximately 30 years of their lives.

“Since the Affordable Care Act increased access to contraceptives, our Nation has achieved a 30 year low in its unintended pregnancy rate, including among teens.

“Unintended pregnancies can have serious health consequences for women and lead to poor neonatal outcomes,” the statement reads.

MEREDITH HORNE 

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