Democrats in Congress, Washington state furious with Trump changes to Obamacare birth control mandate

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WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers expressed outrage Friday after the Trump administration announced a rollback to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.

The new rules would let a broad range of employers — including nonprofits, private firms and publicly traded companies — stop offering free contraceptives through their health insurance plans if they have a “sincerely held religious or moral objection,” senior agency officials in the Department of Health and Human Services said on a call about the implementation and enforcement of the new rules.

More than 55 million U.S. women have birth control coverage with zero out-of-pocket costs, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Democrats are calling the administration’s decision, which would restrict access to birth control, an attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and an undermining of women’s health.

Frustration with Trump’s decision quickly trended the #handsoffmybc hashtag on Twitter.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was quick to criticize the decision, calling it “despicable” and “a sickening attack on women’s health.”

“This administration’s contempt for women reaches a new low with this appalling decision to enable employers and health plans to deny women basic coverage for contraception,” Pelosi said in a Friday news release.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized what he said was an “outrageous decision.”

“We have long turned the page on the days when a boss could stand in between a woman and her own healthcare decisions — this decision drags the country backwards,” he said in a statement. “This decision is just the latest in a series of moves the Trump Administration has made to undermine and sabotage our health care system.”

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, said the move is “outrageous and wrong.”

Democrats plan to resist Trump’s latest measure and said they fear restricted access to contraceptives could have effects like an increase in unplanned pregnancies.

“Millions of Americans — both women and men — rely on contraception to prevent pregnancy, avoid sexually transmitted infections and manage a range of health conditions,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said in a news release.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin echoed Warren’s sentiments in a Friday statement.

“Denying health care to millions of women across America is dangerous and unfair,” he said. “And we know that denying access to family planning leads to more unplanned pregnancies and sadly more abortions.”

But several Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, applauded Trump’s decision as protecting religious freedom.

“Under the Obama administration, this constitutional right was seriously eroded,” Ryan said in a statement, adding: ” The conscience protections installed will ensure that people and organizations can freely live out their religious convictions and moral beliefs.”

Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said the measure is a victory for people of faith and upholding First Amendment rights.

“The HHS mandate forced religious employers to pay for services that violated their consciences,” he said in a Friday news release. “I applaud President Trump and his administration for boldly standing up for the Constitution and the First Amendment.”

In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee said,  “Access to affordable birth control is among the most essential and basic health benefits women rely on. Today the Trump administration took aim at birth control coverage for 62.4 million women nationwide. The president has turned a crucial health care tool for women into a senseless and reckless political ploy. There is no legitimate rationale for taking away women’s access to birth control, and there is no way we will allow this rollback of women’s health care to happen without a fight.”

And Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., called the Trump action “an abhorrent attack on women’s rights.”

“This dangerous decision turns back the clock by enabling employers to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom. The birth control mandate has allowed millions to access affordable contraception and given women autonomy over their reproductive health and futures. Health care must include access to affordable birth control and reproductive services. The Trump Administration’s ideologically-driven decision is a shameful sanctioning of gender discrimination that endangers women’s health.”