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The Trump administration issued new rules Friday to make it easier for employers to refuse to provide insurance coverage for certain birth control methods if they claim to have moral objections to contraception.

The Trump administration October 6 issued interim rules expanding the exemption to the contraceptive mandate for religious employers, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, who object on moral grounds to covering contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their employee health insurance. "After years of Obama era encroachment on religious liberty, we are finally seeing a welcome shift in government policy that once again respects the rights of conscience".

Under Obama, religiously affiliated organizations seeking to opt out were required to notify the USA health department.

With more than 55 million women now using birth control without a copayment under the mandate, The New York Times' Robert Pear estimates the new rules could reduce benefits for hundreds of thousands of women.

The Department of Health and Human Services says that the new regulations will go into effect immediately.

"The departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor issued "interim final rules" to exempt more entities from providing plans that cover contraceptives without a copayment", CNBC reported.

The Trump administration has rolled back the requirement that employer-provided health insurance plans pay for birth control.

Becerra has filed more than two dozen legal actions challenging policy changes by President Trump since the Republican entered the White House in January. "Since the Affordable Care Act increased access to contraceptives, our nation has achieved a 30 year low in its unintended pregnancy rate", said Dr. Hal Lawrence, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, American Congress of Obstetricians in a press call on Thursday.

But the policy was controversial from the start.

He said the rule "carves out a narrow exemption" and keeps the contraceptive mandate in place for those without moral or religious objections to it. Some private businesses sued regarding their rights to circumvent such coverage, and the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that they could object on religious grounds. "Your long ordeal will soon be over", he promised.

More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-pays because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration. A Hobby Lobby spokesman said the company would have no comment on Friday, and the Little Sisters of the Poor didn't respond to NPR's emails seeking comment. They will "still need relief in courts", he said, but was confident now that it would happen.

The changes "will not affect over 99.9 percent of the 165 million women in the United States", the HHS statement said.

Case Western Reserve University School of Law professor Jonathan Adler said it was unlikely publicly traded companies would seek exemptions.

But Palanker says the impact could be a lot bigger.

Under the new rule, companies can deny coverage without filing notices or certifications with the government, according to the Times. One study estimated that women saved $1.4 billion on birth control pills in 2013 as a result of the coverage requirement.

Both the National Women's Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday they plan to challenge the rule in court. Critics predict far more women will be affected by the rule.

"It is basic health care the vast majority of women will use in their lifetime". "We all have the right to our religious beliefs".

In what is likely to be one of the more contested aspects of the document, the Justice Department states that religious organizations can hire workers based on religious beliefs and an employee's willingness "to adhere to a code of conduct".