- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2017

Six women from the House Democratic caucus on Thursday invited Ivanka Trump to a “constructive discussion” on women’s health, as her father weighs pivotal moves on birth control and cheers on legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood.

In a formal letter, the women encouraged Ms. Trump to use her reported sway over President Trump to uphold the “contraception mandate,” an outgrowth of the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to insure a range of birth control methods at no cost to female workers.

“As a busy mother of three, you understand the importance of a woman’s ability to plan for herself and for her family,” the Democrats told Ms. Trump.

The Health and Human Services Department said it is revisiting the mandate in the wake of Mr. Trump’s May 5 order bolstering religious liberty, as faith-based nonprofits await a resolution to lawsuits seeking a full exemption from the rules. As it stands, the nonprofits are supposed to affirmably opt out of the mandate so others can step in and insure the services for their female employers.

Objecting employers say that makes them complicit in green-lighting drugs and services that violate their moral beliefs.

Democrats, meanwhile, fear Mr. Trump’s order will be used “to deny women birth control due to the beliefs or attitudes of their employers.”

“Given your influence over these issues in the White House, we respectfully request an in-person meeting prior to May 26, 2017 to discuss the important role contraception plays in ensuring the success of America’s women and families,” they told Ms. Trump.

Democrats also said the House-passed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare will pare back coverage options for women, such as maternity care, newborn services and cancer screening. As written, the bill is estimated to result in 24 million fewer people holding insurance a decade from now.

The GOP bill also defunds Planned Parenthood as punishment for its abortion practice. Planned Parenthood receives about $550 million in federal reimbursements per year, so losing that money a serious blow to its clinics across the country, which also provides cancer screenings and other services.

A recurring provision known as “Hyde language” bars federal dollars from subsidizing abortion, period, though conservatives say the organization shouldn’t be propped up by taxpayers.

Democrats leaned on Ms. Trump to speak up, citing her image as a professional woman who’s spoken openly about the balance between work life and family.

“Given your stated passion about women’s issues and empowerment, we found your silence during the House passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) surprising,” the Democrats told Ms. Trump. “AHCA is a disastrous bill for women and their families, threatening access to pregnancy care, maternal and newborn services, breast cancer screenings, and contraception.”

Also Thursday, Democrats accused Mr. Trump of engaging in an “active sabotage campaign” against Obamacare, citing his decision to pull enrollment ads in January and allow the IRS to continue accepting tax returns that do not address health status, weakening its ability to enforce the mandate requiring Americans to hold insurance or pay a tax.

Mr. Trump has also threatened to withhold “cost-sharing” payments that reimburse insurers for low-income customers’ costs, seeking to use the money as leverage over Democrats who refuse to negotiate an overhaul of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The administration is making the payments for now, though it could easily cut them off by dropping an appeal of a stayed 2016 court ruling that said unless Congress explicitly approves them, the payments are unlawful.

The Justice Department is supposed to update the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by Monday on how they plan to proceed, though they may plead for more time.

“That issue is still unresolved,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said.

The Justice Department is scheduled to provide a status report to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Monday.

Insurers seeking double-digit rates say waffling over the mandate and cost-sharing payments is forcing them to request premium increases beyond what they would request to cover the costs of a sicker-than-expected customer base in President Obama’s signature program.

Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said Mr. Trump should bolster Obamacare before his hardball tactics begin to backfire.

“You are not going to blackmail Democrats by hurting our constituents by undermining the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

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