Local advocates show concern about contraception mandate

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Trump Administration issued a roll back on the Obama era birth control mandate, which raised concerns for many about women’s healthcare rights in Rhode Island.

President Trump set new rules for employers by putting the choice of whether or not insurance covers birth control in their hands.

Majority of Friday’s White House briefing following the announcement was focused on the President’s strong support of the First Amendment.

“The President believes that the freedom to practice ones faith is a fundamental right of this country, and I think all of us do. And that’s all that today was about,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

The change gives employers the option to stop offering contraceptives through their insurance if they have any “moral objection” to it.

“It honestly puts at risk almost every person who’s covered by employee insurance,” Rhode Island Director of Government Relations Craig O’Connor said. “Birth control as basic healthcare is not controversial.”

O’Connor said the change is unacceptable and yet another attack on women’s healthcare by the president. He said the rule takes effect in early December, but for his colleague who are fighting for access to contraception, the time to speak up is now.

“We’re encouraging everyone to submit comments through the health and human services website but we also need to take action here at the state level,” he said.

O’Connor says many lawmakers in Rhode Island have been supportive of reproductive health and he believes they will continue to fight for access to resources such as birth control.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse released a statement today condemning President Trump’s new rule.

“Women should be able to make their own health care decisions regardless of where they work,” he said. “The Affordable Care Act advanced women’s rights by recognizing that birth control ought to be fully covered by insurance.  President Trump’s new rule is a step backwards, particularly for women struggling to make ends meet who can’t afford to pay for birth control out of pocket.  It seems the Trump administration is working on all fronts to tear up decades of hard-fought progress.”

President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England Amanda Skinner said birth control is a fundamental right that should be protected.

“We cannot let the government and politicians take that right away from millions of people in this country in a blatant attempt to roll back the progress women have made over the past century,” she said.

Eyewitness News reached out to the Providence Diocese about the new rule but has yet to hear back.