Wolf Calls On Legislature To Make Birth Control Coverage A State Mandate

Oct 10, 2017

Gov. Tom Wolf is urging the Pennsylvania legislature to make birth control coverage a mandate in the state after the Trump administration pledged to roll back Obama-era requirements that most employers cover birth control for employees through their health insurance.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the conservative-owned craft store Hobby Lobby the right to deny birth control coverage to employees under the umbrella of religious freedom. The Trump administration said Friday they want to expand the number of employers and insurers who qualify for the exemption. 

Wolf's call for action marks the latest in a number of disagreements with the President.

In June, the Governor spoke out against Trump's plan to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, saying Pennsylvania's economy and health would suffer. He also denied Trump's request that the state release voter information from the 2016 presidential election.

Chris Borick, professor of political science at Muhlenberg College, said despite Wolf's effort, a bill like this isn't likely to pass.

"The realities of moving such a bill through the Republican-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania, the odds are pretty slim," he said. "I think [Wolf] wants to put pressure on the legislature, he wants to be on record about this issue, and he probably recognizes that it's in all likelihood going nowhere."

Like Congress, both the state House and the Senate are Republican-controlled.

The Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese weighed in as well. Bishop David A. Zubik was a named plaintiff in a 2015 case that argued religious organizations should be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage to their employees. Zubik v. Burwell went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before it was deferred to a lower court for deliberation that has yet to take place.

Wolf's office said rolling back birth control coverage statewide would affect more than 2.5 million Pennsylvania women who are covered through the Affordable Care Act.

"This ill-thought-out decision hurts all women, and even worse, this contraceptive restriction disproportionately affects low-income women who may now not be able to afford this important medication," Wolf said.