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A Guide to Birth Control Coverage for Students of Religious Universities

Updated October 2017: If you are currently enrolled, or plan to enroll, in a health insurance plan through a religiously affiliated university, changes enacted this week by the Trump Administration may affect your coverage.

What happened?

On this past Friday October 6, the Trump administration announced an Interim Federal Rule (IFR) repealing the birth control mandate included in the previous administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). These changes will effectively allow any employer to remove birth control coverage from its health care plans on religious or moral grounds. Under the rule, a university is considered an “employer,” meaning health care plans for faculty and students at religious institutions may see contraception removed as a covered benefit.

Where did this come from?

Health care coverage for contraception has been an ongoing debate, especially in recent years under the Obama administration. Here are the key political changes that led us to the current state of birth control coverage:

  • In 2010, the Obama administration passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act, ACA, or Obamacare). Among other provisions, the ACA requires health care plans to cover birth control in addition to seven other “women’s preventative health benefits.”

  • As a response to the birth control mandate, a number of religious institutions – including hospitals and universities – began to push back politically. Initially, the only employers exempt from the birth control mandate were places of worship. Some religiously-affiliated hospitals and universities were also granted an exceptional status.

  • In 2014, the Supreme Court decided Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which expanded the permitted exceptions to the birth control mandate to include “closely held” private businesses with opposing religious or mor