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
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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.


France's Macron vows Iran will 'never' possess nuclear weapons

Updated 25 April 2018
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France's Macron vows Iran will 'never' possess nuclear weapons

  • French President Emmanuel Macron drew on the “shared bond” of US-French relations
  • Macron told Congress that Iran will “never” be allowed to develop atomic weapons

WASHINGTON: French President Emmanuel Macron drew Wednesday on the “shared bond” of US-French relations to call for a rejection of isolationism and instead for the countries to bond together anew for a 21st century security.
Macron opened a joint meeting of Congress, saying “the American and French people have had a rendezvous with freedom.”
The French president received a warm, three-minute standing ovation from US lawmakers before delivering — in English — a rare address to Congress, which he hailed as a “sanctuary of democracy.”
Macron shook hands with senators and representatives, and pressed his hand to his heart several times before a speech expected to touch on the two countries’ shared history and international challenges.
“Our two nations are rooted in the same soil, grounded in the ideals of the American and French revolutions,” Macron said.
“We have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance, and equal rights.”
Speaking almost directly to President Donald Trump, Macron quickly turned to the top issues of Syria, free trade and the Paris accord on climate change — issues where he and Trump disagree — as he urged the United States not to retreat from world affairs, but to embrace its historic role as a military leader of world affairs.
“We are living in a time of anger and fear because of these current global threats,” Macron told lawmakers. “You can play with fears and angers for a time, but they do not construct anything.”
With a nod to great American leaders, including former President Franklin Roosevelt, he warned against sowing seeds of fear.
“We have two possible ways ahead. We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears,” he said. “But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world.”
But he said international engagement was the only solution.
“This requires — more than ever — the United States’ involvement as your role was decisive for creating and guarding today’s free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help preserve and reinvent it,” he said.
Macron told Congress that Iran will “never” be allowed to develop atomic weapons, as the fate of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran hangs in the balance.
“Our objective is clear,” Macron told lawmakers on the final day of a state visit during which he and President Donald Trump called for a broader “deal” that would also limit Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for militant groups across the Middle East.
“Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never,” Macron said.
Macron has pushed for a new approach that would see the United States and Europe agree to block any Iranian nuclear activity until 2025 and beyond, address Iran’s ballistic missile program and generate conditions for a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
“Whatever the decision of the United States will be, we will not leave the floor to the actions of rogues. We will not leave the floor to this conflict of powers in the Middle East,” Macron told Congress.
“I think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal for the whole region, for our people, because I think it fairly addresses our concerns,” he said.
On climate change, Macron told US lawmakers there is “no Planet B,” acknowledging a disagreement with President Donald Trump, who pulled his nation from the landmark Paris accord.
“Let us face it. There is no Planet B,” Macron said in an address to Congress on the final day of his state visit to the United States.
“We have disagreements between the United States and France. It may happen, like in all families,” he said — but such differences would be short-term.
“We’re just citizens of the same planet,” Macron said.
“With business leaders and local communities, let us work together in order to make our planet great again and create new jobs and new opportunities while safeguarding our Earth. And I’m sure one day, the United States would come back and join the Paris agreement.”
Trump said last year that his country would withdraw from the accord, which aims to reduce damaging emissions and was signed by almost 200 countries.
Macron also lashed out against fake news — and gave a tongue-in-cheek apology for violating President Donald Trump’s “copyright” on the term.
He warned that lies disseminated online are threatening freedoms worldwide, saying: “Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy because democracy is about true choices and rational decisions.”
Macron tasked his government this year with drafting a law to punish false information distributed during election campaigns. Macron says his presidential campaign last year was a victim of fake news, notably accusing Russian news sites RT and Sputnik.
He also warned against “terrorist propaganda that spreads its fanaticism on the Internet.”
In recounting common bonds from the earliest days of the United States, Macron talked about a meeting between Ben Franklin and the French philosopher Voltaire, “kissing each other’s cheeks.”
In an apparent reference to his friendly meetings this week with Trump, he said, “It can remind you of something.”
Macron was speaking as part of his visit to the United States. It’s the first time a president from France has addressed Congress in more than a decade, but follows a tradition of foreign leaders appearing at the US Capitol.