Trump rolls back Obamacare provision for free birth control

In this July 24, 2017 photo, President Donald Trump speaks about healthcare in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington. (AP)
Updated 07 October 2017
0

Trump rolls back Obamacare provision for free birth control

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s administration annulled on Friday an Obamacare provision that obliged employer health plans to pay for contraception, potentially stripping free birth control from millions of women.
The move extends to all commercial enterprises an exemption already given to religious institutions.
Rights groups, physicians, Democrats and ordinary citizens were outraged, and #HandsOffMyBC was a top trending hashtag on Twitter while the American Civil Liberties Union threatened a lawsuit.
But the White House insisted it was a matter of religious freedom.
The ruling expands “exemptions to protect moral convictions for certain entities and individuals whose health plans are subject to a mandate of contraceptive coverage” under Obamacare, a note published by the US Department of Health and Human Services said.
Millions of American women who had the cost of contraception reimbursed could be affected by the decision, which conservative groups had been seeking since Obamacare began.
Challenges to Obamacare had reached the US Supreme Court, which in 2014 ruled that family-owned private companies could choose not to provide contraceptive coverage to female employees on religious grounds.
In May, Trump signed a decree on religious liberty ordering his administration to take into account objections of conscience on matters of contraception.
Obamacare is the common name for the Affordable Care Act, health reforms that took effect under former president Barack Obama in 2010. It allowed millions of people to get health insurance.
It was not immediately clear how many women would be affected by the new ruling. The Trump administration, basing estimates off the number of employers who had previously filed lawsuits over the Obamacare requirement to fully cover the costs of birth control, said it would only be about 120,000 women.
A 2016 government study said Obamacare had guaranteed that 55.6 million women with private insurance had access to free birth control.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it was “suing the Trump administration to block new rules allowing employers to deny insurance coverage for birth control.”
Planned Parenthood said the new rule “puts our birth control coverage at risk.”

The non-profit health organization, targeted for cuts by Trump’s administration because it provides abortion services, said on Twitter that the decision on contraception coverage “shows the Trump admin’s disdain for women’s health & lives.”
Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic nomination for president in last November’s election, called the new rule sexist.
“It’s the latest display of Republicans’ total disdain for women’s ability to control their own lives,” he said.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the decision would threaten women’s health.
“These rules will negatively impact the health of women and their families by limiting access to essential preventive care,” the organization’s president, Haywood Brown, said in a statement.
“Contraception is a medical necessity for women during approximately 30 years of their lives. It improves the health of women, children and families as well as communities overall,” said Brown.
But the White House framed it as an issue of religious liberty and asserted that the law was on its side.
“The president believes that the freedom to practice one’s faith is a fundamental right in this country and that’s all today was about,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.
“I don’t understand why that should be an issue. The Supreme Court has validated this decision, certainly many times over and the president is somebody who believes in the constitution,” Sanders said.
Repealing Obamacare was one of Trump’s most strident campaign promises. He described Obamacare as a “total disaster,” but his Republican Party has failed in efforts to repeal the health reforms.


Afghanistan announces Muslim Eid holiday cease-fire with Taliban

Updated 19 August 2018
0

Afghanistan announces Muslim Eid holiday cease-fire with Taliban

  • “We call on the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of Afghans for a long-lasting and real peace,” President Ashraf Ghani said
  • Ghani’s cease-fire announcement was limited to the Taliban and excluded other militant groups such as Daesh

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday announced a cease-fire with Taliban insurgents from Monday to mark the Muslim Eid Al-Adha holiday, despite the heavy fighting seen over recent days in the central city of Ghazni.
“The conditional cease-fire will start tomorrow and it will continue as long as the Taliban preserves and respects it,” he said in an Afghan Independence Day ceremony in Kabul.
“We call on the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of Afghans for a long-lasting and real peace,” he said.
A senior official in Ghani’s office said the “conditional” cease-fire would run for three months.
It was not immediately clear whether the Taliban had accepted Ghani’s call for a truce during Eid, the annual Islamic feast of sacrifice, which officially begins on Tuesday.
This month the Taliban fought an intense battle with Afghan forces to control the strategically important city of Ghazni.
At least 150 soldiers and 95 civilians were killed in a five-day siege, which eased last week when Afghan soldiers backed by US forces pushed back the heavily armed rebels.
The Taliban said in a statement that they had control over half of Afghanistan.
Blasts, suicide attacks and clashes between hard-line Islamic militants and Afghan forces killed over 1,600 civilians in the first six months of the year, the highest number in the past decade, the United Nations said in a statement on Sunday.
Ghani’s cease-fire announcement was limited to the Taliban and excluded other militant groups such as Daesh.