Pa. Attorney Gen. Henry leads call for Biden to further increase access to contraception 

Monday Morning Coffee: ‘It is more vital than ever that people everywhere have access to this preventative health care,’ state Attorney General Michelle Henry said

By: - April 10, 2023 7:21 am

Pa. Attorney General Michelle Henry (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry is leading a coalition of colleagues in 22 states who are urging the Biden administration to further revise a Trump-era rule that allowed nearly all employers to deny birth control coverage on religious or moral grounds.

Henry and her fellow attorneys general sent a letter to the administration last week urging the changes.

It came two days before federal judges in Texas and Washington, in a separate matter, issued dueling rulings on abortion medication. The White House is currently appealing the Texas ruling.

In a follow-up statement issued Friday, Henry noted that abortion remains legal in Pennsylvania, and said she was “deeply disappointed by the flawed decision,” by U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk.

“Women deserve access to safe reproductive health care free from unwarranted interference by a court. I will continue to fight to ensure that the people of Pennsylvania get exactly that,” Henry said.

Earlier this year, the Democratic White House moved to reverse the contraception restrictions imposed in 2017 and 2018 by its Republican predecessor, proposing a regulatory change rescinding the moral exemption rule, while retaining the religious exemption rule, according to The Hill.

The White House also proposed the creation of what it describes as an “individual contraceptive arrangement,” that would allow patients enrolled in health plans or coverage sponsored by an objecting employer to still obtain free contraceptive services,” Henry’s office said in a statement.

“In providing for no-cost contraceptive coverage under the [Affordable Care Act], Congress understood that such coverage is a fundamental part of reproductive health,” Henry said in an April 5 statement.

“Particularly in light of the [U.S.] Supreme Court’s decision last year in Dobbs to overrule Roe v. Wade, and the wave of abortion restrictions that have followed in some states, it is more vital than ever that people everywhere have access to this preventative health care,” Henry said.

The Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage was signed into law — along with the rest of former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation — in 2010. It required all employers and sponsors of health plans to cover the cost of preventive services necessary for women’s health, including contraceptive services, Henry’s office said in its statement.

In the 13 years since it went on the books, estimates show that more than 62 million women have benefited from the mandate, Henry’s office said. The former Trump administration’s restrictions, however, denied coverage to between 70,500 and 126,400 people.

(Getty Images)

In a letter sent to U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier BecerraU.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie SuHenry and attorneys general from 22 states called on the White House to further narrow the religious exemption and to make further changes to the individual contraceptive agreements.

Those changes include:

  • Expanding the ICA to include a wider spectrum of individuals who are excluded from contraceptive coverage;
  • Carrying out a publicity and outreach campaign to inform patients and providers about the ICA and help them enroll in it; and
  • Providing additional protections to secure patients’ privacy, safeguard them from retaliation, and create a process for contesting medical bills.

State attorneys general “have a substantial interest in protecting the medical and economic health of our residents and ensuring that all residents are free and able to fully advance their educational and economic goals,” the letter reads in part.

“Contraception is necessary preventive healthcare that is vital for women, and everyone with capacity to become pregnant, to be able to aspire, achieve, participate in, and contribute to society based on their individual talents, capabilities, and timelines,” the letter from the attorneys general continued. “The 2018 [rules] created sweeping new exemptions that denied women across the country access to legally protected preventive healthcare.”

In addition to Henry, attorneys general from California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey were the lead signatories to the comment letter.

They were joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.