After new changes to employee contraception rules were announced by the Trump Administration last week, students and faculty at University of Connecticut have reflected on what their effects will be.
One day after the midterm elections last week, the Trump Administration finalized new rules which will allow most employers to refuse coverage of contraception regardless of religious beliefs.
Until now, the Obama-era Affordable Care Act included a mandate for employers to include free access to contraception in their healthcare plans. The mandate included an option for religious companies to apply for an exemption to the rule. However, new regulations finalized on Oct. 7 now expand to most companies, including publicly traded ones.
The rules come after an interim statement was released by the Department of Health and Human Services in October 2017 and finalizes two major changes to the Affordable Care Act. According to an article published by Vox, the first change “allows essentially any non-government employer — including large, publicly traded businesses — to get an exemption on the basis of ‘sincerely held religious beliefs.’”
The second alteration to employer regulations “allows nonprofits and small businesses, but not publicly traded businesses, to get an exemption on the basis of ‘non-religious moral convictions.’
According a to a study released by the Center for Disease Control, 62 percent of women of reproductive age in the United States are currently using contraception.
Kathleen Holgerson, director of the University of Connecticut Women’s Center, raised questions about the disparate impact of these changes on women and who gets to decide such matters.
“Women are not being included in that decision-making process,” said Holgerson.
Natalie Daoud, a fifth-semester English major, said the Trump Administration had political motives in making these changes.
“I think this is obviously an attempt to rattle the Democrats after the supposed ‘blue wave,’” said Daoud. “This is directly related to the disenfranchisement of women in our country. Women are not important in the eyes of our government, and [this move] shows their agenda to have control over women’s bodies.”
Thomas Shea, an associate professor of English, said there may be a double standard at play.
“The United States federal government should support contraception for women with the same enthusiasm they would display if men could become pregnant,” he said.
Other students at UConn expressed personal concerns about the new contraception rules.
“If I were to get pregnant, what would I do? I can’t even take care of myself,” Michelle Skowronek, a fifth-year Political Science major said. “I’ve never personally had an employer who covered any healthcare, but I feel that it’s a woman’s right to have access to [contraception]. It’s healthcare. There’s nothing else to say about it.”
The rules published earlier this month have been challenged by California and Pennsylvania and are pending trial. They are slated to take effect in January 2019.
Penina Beede is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Penina.Beede@uconn.edu.