The Trump administration on Friday removed the mandate for employers to provide access to birth control without a co-pay as part of their requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The new rules allow a significant number of employers to claim religious or moral beliefs to avoid coverage of contraceptives.
The move has been met with praise from conservative Christian activists and Republicans, while reproductive rights advocates, women’s groups and the Democrats have panned it.
The administration is already facing lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming it violates separation of church and state, as well as the states of Massachusetts and California.
Democratic state attorneys general in a further 16 states are also threatening legal action.
“This is a landmark day for religious liberty. Under the Obama administration, this constitutional right was seriously eroded,” Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said.
Planned Parenthood have taken aim at the administration over the decision, claiming it will remove the fundamental right to decide whether and when you have children.
“The Trump administration just took direct aim at birth control coverage for 62 million women,” said Cecile Richards, the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“With this rule in place, any employer could decide that their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control.”
Planned Parenthood also claim that the new rule is “unprecedented in its vagueness”, and accuse the rule of being an ideological move, rather than for the health of those it affects.
The Trump administration included in its justification for the change that providing birth control coverage could foster “risky sexual behaviour” among teens and young adults.