President Donald Trump has regularly come under fire for seeming to explicitly target and try to dismantle former president Barack Obama’s legacy. Now Trump reportedly has two more Obama era policies on his chopping block: the birth control coverage mandate and the Iran nuclear deal.
THE ATTACK ON BIRTH CONTROL
The Trump administration says the Affordable Care Act does not explicitly require coverage of contraceptives, and will reverse the federal requirement for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. The move vastly expands exemptions for employers that cite moral or religious objections. The new rules could be issued as soon as today and would go into effect as soon as they are on display at the office of the Federal Register. They could cause hundreds of thousands of women nationwide to lose birth control benefits they now receive at no cost under the Affordable Care Act.
In the new rules, the Trump administration says “it is necessary and appropriate to provide the expanded exemptions,” and notes that applying the birth control mandate "to entities with sincerely held religious objections to it does not serve a compelling governmental interest." The mandate also imposes a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion by certain employers with religious objections. The Trump administration will not require employers claiming exemptions to contraceptive coverage to "file notices or certifications” with the government, though they will be required to inform employees of changes in coverage.
"Nonreligious nonprofit organizations" will also receive exemptions, a rule that would benefit organizations like March for Life, which holds an annual march opposing abortion. (Matthew Bowman, an attorney at the Department of Health and Human Services, "represented March for Life in 2014 when he was a lawyer at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group" and is one of the "principal authors" of the rules, according to The New York Times.
Although many doctors, including obstetricians and gynecologists, have said that contraceptives have generally been beneficial to women's health, the Trump administration maintains that the mandate could promote “risky sexual behavior” among some teenagers and young adults. The administration further notes that "the government already engages in dozens of programs that subsidize contraception for the low-income women” who are most at risk for unintended pregnancy.
The move is certain to spark fresh litigation from women's rights advocates and public health groups. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, savings on the birth control pill have accounted for "63% of the drop in average out-of-pocket spending on retail drugs since 2012."
DISMANTLING THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
President Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the landmark international deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. If Trump fails to certify the accord by October 15, Congress will decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation.
An official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said Trump "is also expected to roll out a broader U.S. strategy on Iran that would be more confrontational."
“We must not allow Iran... to obtain nuclear weapons,” Trump said yesterday during a meeting with military leaders at the White House. “The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East. That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement.”
Trump's announcement opened him up to a slew of criticism from supporters of the deal, who contend that decertifying it would trigger a regional arms race and cause tensions to spike across the Middle East.
One of the president's harshest critics is British academic, author and commentator Michael Axworthy, who takes him to task in a piece for The Guardian:
With all the difficulties of the world at the moment – a dangerous confrontation with North Korea, the looming threat of trade wars and consequent economic slump, and a Middle East region strewn with failed states, unresolved conflicts and misery, to name just a few – the Iran nuclear deal is a rare example of a recent diplomatic initiative that has actually enhanced stability...
Trump’s demonisation of Iran is dishonest. The instability of the region is not in any significant measure the consequence of Iranian actions. To blame Iran for terrorism in the region is misleading at best – most terrorism there, and most of the Islamist terrorism worldwide, is inspired by extreme versions of Sunni Islam, not by the Shia Islam of Iran and the Iranian regime...
The JCPOA is doing what it was designed to do: limit Iran’s ability to make a bomb. It is a force for stability in the chronically unstable Middle East, and to endanger it is irresponsible. Not just the IAEA and most of the world, but most of Trump’s own military and civilian advisers, all agree on that. From their near silence on the matter, the deal’s previous enemies in Saudi Arabia now seem to agree too.
If Trump decertifies the deal – which seems to be his intention in the next few days – he weakens it, but gives responsibility for reimposing sanctions, which would wreck the agreement, to the US Congress.
To do that would be an abdication of his responsibility as president.
Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the agreement.