The Trump administration’s new birth control rule is raising questions among some women’s health experts, who say it overlooks known benefits of contraception while selectively citing data that raise doubts about effectiveness and safety.
“This rule is listing things that are not scientifically validated, and in some cases things that are wrong, to try to justify a decision that is not in the best interests of women and society,” said Dr. Hal Lawrence, CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which represents women’s health specialists.
Two recently issued rules — one addressing religious objections and the other, moral objections — allow more employers to opt out of covering birth control as a free preventive benefit for women under the Obama health care law. Although the regulations ultimately concern matters of conscience and religious teaching, they also dive into medical research and scholarly studies on birth control.
It’s on the science that the Trump administration is being challenged. Doctors and researchers say the administration ignored studies that didn’t support its conclusions and stretched others.
“The interpretation is very selective in terms of the science that they use,” said Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “You can make an argument that you don’t agree because of your religious or moral objections, but that is a different discussion.”
In a statement, Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley responded to critics, saying: “The rules are focused on guaranteeing religious freedom and conscience protections for those Americans who have a religious or moral objection to providing certain services based on their sincerely held beliefs.”
The administration also says some parts of the rules are meant to illustrate the sorts of concerns that religious objectors may have, and don’t necessarily reflect government policy.