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Arizona congressman praises decision to roll back birth control mandate

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PHOENIX — U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) praised President Donald Trump’s decision to roll back an Obama-era mandate that allowed women to receive birth control at no cost through their employer.

In a statement, Biggs said the move was “great” for “religious freedom, the U.S. Constitution, and the American people.”

“The Obama administration subjected Americans to the horrors of Obamacare, and intentionally disregarded our fundamental right to religious freedom – most notably with the contraceptive mandate,” part of the statement read.

“No American should be forced to participate in an activity or purchase a commodity that violates his or her conscience, nor should any man, woman, or child feel threatened in the exercise of religious expression or commitment by their government,” the statement continued.

Biggs then referenced a 2014 decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the court ruled that some corporations have religious rights and cannot be forced to pay for certain types of contraception for its employees.

“Now the Trump administration has followed through with its promise and ensured that there are more safeguards for religious freedom in this country,” Biggs said.

“I am grateful for President Trump and his administration for these protections, and I will work in Congress to ensure that the religious freedom is cherished, defended, and enshrined to the full extent of our legislative abilities.”

Trump announced Friday that he would allow more employers to opt out of the mandate by claiming religious or moral objections. Employers with religious or moral qualms will also be able to cover some birth control methods, and not others.

The roll back is a revision to an Affordable Care Act requirement that most companies cover birth control as preventive care for women, at no additional cost.

That Obama-era requirement applies to all FDA-approved methods, including the morning-after pill, which some religious conservatives call an abortion drug, though scientists said it has no effect on women who are already pregnant.

Thousands could be affected

Tens of thousands of women could be affected by Trump’s policy, but the vast majority of companies have no qualms about offering birth control benefits through their health plans.

Human resource managers recognize that employers get an economic benefit from helping women space out their pregnancies, since female workers are central to most enterprises.

The administration estimated that some 200 employers who have already voiced objections to the Obama-era policy would qualify for the expanded opt-out, and that 120,000 women would be affected.

However, it’s unclear how major religion-affiliated employers such as Catholic hospitals and universities will respond.

Many Catholic hospitals now rely on an Obama-era workaround under which the government pays for the cost of birth control coverage. That workaround can continue under the new rules.

Since contraception became a covered preventive benefit, the share of women employees paying with their own money for birth control pills has plunged to 3 percent, from 21 percent, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation figures.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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