The Trump administration on Thursday will expand access for women to birth-control pills and injectables at government clinics and universities in the United States, in a step that could be seen as a win for the GOP-led Congress, but critics say could be interpreted as a signal that it is also seeking to roll back key protections for women’s health and reproductive rights.
The move comes as the Trump administration prepares to sign an executive order to expand the use of contraception at state and local health care facilities, a move that would allow employers to deny women access to the medications they need to prevent unintended pregnancies.
The order, which is expected to come later this month, will expand the number of health centers in the country that can offer contraception to women with no insurance, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement Thursday.
It will allow for women who can’t afford private insurance coverage to access contraceptives in state-run health care centers, the ACLU said.
“The Trump administration is attempting to take away access to preventive health care that women in this country need,” said Catherine Crump, an ACLU of Texas senior staff attorney who represents women’s reproductive rights in Texas.
“Women are already forced to travel long distances to access health care and other essential health care services, and this expansion of access is a step toward undermining access to these critical services.”
The new measures could also have a chilling effect on reproductive health care for women and their families.
“If you have no insurance and you’re going to have to travel for your birth control, you’re not going to get it,” Crump said.
“It’s going to make it harder to get contraceptives for people.”
The move has alarmed advocates for reproductive rights, who say it is a move to rollback critical protections for millions of women across the country.
The Obama administration’s move to expand birth control coverage came as the Obama administration sought to reverse a Supreme Court ruling that blocked state efforts to limit access to a variety of birth control medications.
Under the Obama order, covered employers must cover contraceptives, including oral contraceptives, in certain settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and other settings, as well as in other settings such as schools and government offices.
In recent years, a slew of lawsuits have been filed by religious groups against the Obama rule, which they say violates their religious liberty.
The cases have been consolidated in federal court and are expected to be decided by the end of the year.
The Trump order expands coverage for certain types of birth-care providers to include a list of providers that have been approved to receive federal funds under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which allows women to access certain types and doses of birth drugs through their employers.
Under the new plan, all of these providers must be approved by the FDA to be allowed to dispense birth-contraception.
The new policy does not affect the number or availability of providers approved by federal agencies to provide birth- control coverage, but does make it easier for women with employer-provided insurance to obtain contraception at federally licensed clinics.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The White House released a statement from HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden saying the administration would work with Congress to protect the rights of all women and children, including those who are undocumented.
“This Administration will continue to work with the Congress to ensure that the ACA is fully implemented and that it can be fully implemented for all Americans,” Hayden said.