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Employers Can Now Decide if Employees Are Allowed Birth Control 

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The Trump Administration has officially axed the federal mandate requiring employers to offer birth control coverage to employees — using reasoning straight from the Texas conservative playbook.

The Obama-era mandate granted more than 55 million women easy access to birth control (with no co-payment) under employee health plans, deeming it an essential part of women's preventative health care. It did made an exception, however, for churches and nonprofit religious organizations who argued birth control went against their religious beliefs.

The White House's new rules, released Friday, extends that exception to every employer, essentially putting a women's personal health decisions in the hands of her workplace.

Instead of addressing the burden placed on a woman forced to carry out an unwanted pregnancy, the administration appears more concerned about the "substantial burden" placed on a boss who claims offering employees birth control goes against his or her "religious beliefs or moral convictions."

(The new ruling specifically points to the rights of religious people who believe birth control is the same as an abortion.)

It's the same excuse Texas GOP lawmakers have used to block LGBT spouses from getting health insurance, keep transgender Texans out of public bathrooms, keep LGBT parents from adopting kids, and limit a woman's ability to access a legal abortion.

In short, the administration is saying a boss' religious or moral beliefs come before that of their employee. The ACLU has already sued the Trump Administration over the decision.

"Where's the religious freedom for women working for the company?" asked Janet Realini, a physician and president of Healthy Futures of Texas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing teen pregnancies.

"Religious freedoms need to be respected. But why do we just care about the employers'? Why should they be able to taken away a women's right to follow their own religious or moral beliefs that include using contraception?"

Unlike the White House's archaic claim that easier access to birth control will promote "risky sexual behavior" among women, Realini told the Current that  most take birth control to take less risks.

A few reasons women take birth control: To prioritize their education before having children, in order to land a well-paying job before having to financially support a family. To space out their pregnancies to decrease the chances of their baby — or themselves — dying.

In Texas, where lawmakers are already hard at work to keep women — especially girls — from accessing birth control, 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned. Not coincidently, Texas also has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world.

The administration hints that birth control may be dangerous for a women's health, contradicting the beliefs held by the country's top OB-GYN doctors.

"Birth control is incredibly safe," said Lisa Hollier, president-elect of the  American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Hollier, the OB-GYN medical director at the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, specializes in high-risk pregnancies.

"An unplanned pregnancy, especially in Texas, is more dangerous that any birth control," she told the Current. "A decision about medical treatment should be made in conjunction with a woman's doctor. Not her employer."

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January 12, 2022

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