On Wednesday this week, the Trump-Pence Administration issued two final rules that allow virtually any employer or university to take away birth control coverage from their employees and students. The fact that the rules are illegal and discriminatory is bad enough, but the Trump-Administration also engaged in shadiness that is worth exposing.
First of all, the Administration had the final rules ready to be released on October 30th. But instead of putting them out into the world before the election, which would expose to voters that this Administration wants to take away birth control coverage, they kept them locked down until late Wednesday afternoon. That demonstrates two things: the Administration knew this would be unpopular with voters and also that Trump and Pence don’t care that voters just came out in support of health care. They are going to continue moving forward with their anti-health care policies.
Then, when you read the rules it becomes clear that the Trump-Pence Administration is trying to silence the outcry against these rules. Back in December 2017, over half a million people commented on the initial versions of these rules. But the Administration is hiding that fact – in a footnote. In the text of the new rule, it says it only received 56,000 comments on the initial versions of the rules. But in a footnote – which is literally in smaller font and not in the main text of the preamble – the Administration admits that actually it really heard from hundreds of thousands of people. This Administration is attempting to minimize the public’s voice in the rulemaking process by undercounting the comments. But we won’t be silenced.
Additionally, buried in the preamble to the rule, the Trump-Pence Administration says that it received some comments questioning whether birth control should even be considered preventive care for women, and included as required coverage in health insurance plans. They ask anyone who has thoughts about that to send an email to the federal agency charged with this determination. In other words, a federal agency that is supposed to be considering data and evidence will be flooded with anti-birth control junk science. And because it’s a federal agency under the Trump-Pence Administration, the danger of them using those emails as a justification to set anti-birth control policy is very real.
All of this comes on the heels of the Trump-Pence Administration’s other shady tactic they’ve used to achieve their goal of gutting the birth control benefit: entering into secret settlement agreements with dozens of companies and universities which allow those entities to stop covering birth control for their employees and students. When we discovered the settlement agreements, we filed a lawsuit against one of them. That lawsuit is still pending.
We know the Trump-Pence Administration will stop at nothing to gut the birth control benefit. They’ve shown us that much. But everyone deserves birth control coverage no matter where they work or go to school, and no matter what the Administration tries, we won’t stop protecting that coverage.