President Donald Trump's administration has repealed a regulation under the Obamacare law that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for women's birth control.
According to Christian News Network, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued "interim final rules" that is aimed at providing expanded protections for religious employers who are opposed to the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare.
The new rules would allow businesses or non-profit organizations to lodge religious or moral objections to obtain an exemption from the contraceptive mandate.
"The United States has a long history of providing conscience protections in the regulation of health care for entities and individuals with objections based on religious beliefs or moral convictions," the new rules state, as reported by Life Site News.
"These rules do not alter multiple other Federal programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives for women at risk of unintended pregnancy," it continued.
The HHS argued that there are numerous government programs that provide free or low-cost contraceptives for women, so there is no compelling government interest to force religious employers to provide them as well.
The contraception mandate was implemented as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which is considered as the signature legislative achievement of Democratic former President Barack Obama.
Several religious businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations sued the Obama administration over the mandate, and the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that they could object on religious grounds.
One of the non-profits that sued the government at the time was the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns that runs care homes for the elderly.
In 2013, the religious order and other Christian non-profit employers rejected a compromise offered by the Obama administration that allowed entities opposed to providing contraception insurance coverage to comply with the law without actually paying for the required coverage.
The decision to rescind the mandate has been praised by conservative Christian activists and congressional Republicans, but it drew the ire of reproductive rights advocates and Democrats.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco in an attempt to halt the new rule, claiming that it violated the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.
Reuters noted that the Justice Department has issued two memos that will serve as a reference for justifying the rule and laying out a framework for how to apply religious liberty issues in legal opinions, federal rules and grant making.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, commended the Trump administration for rolling back the contraception mandate.
"President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to undoing the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and restoring true religious freedom. Last May, the president ordered the federal government to vigorously promote and protect religious liberty," Perkins said, adding that HHS is "moving to make that order a reality.