Trump allies considering plans to limit insurance coverage for abortions

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

By Sophie Boudreau

June 11, 2024

The proposals would modify existing labor laws to exclude “uniform” employer coverage for abortion, making it more challenging for patients in red states to seek care across state lines.

Conservatives affiliated with former president Donald Trump are considering proposals that could restrict employers from helping employees obtain abortions using company-provided insurance in the case of a second Trump term, according to sources close to the Trump team and a publicly released statement from the Heritage Foundation.

According to reporting from the Washington Post, the proposals would clarify a federal labor law known as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which allows employers to streamline their private insurance policies and provide uniform plans for workers across multiple states. Currently, this means that employers can expand company insurance coverage to include abortion care for employees, even if employees must travel out of state to receive such care.

Under a Trump-appointed Labor Department, the law could potentially be modified to exclude coverage for abortion, making it nearly impossible for pregnant people in states with abortion restrictions to find insurance-supported care by traveling to other states.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, interstate travel for abortion care in the US has vastly increased since the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision that repealed Roe v. Wade, which once guaranteed the federal right to an abortion. In fact, the number of pregnant people traveling out of state for abortion care doubled between 2020 and 2023.

Far-right groups lead call for abortion exclusions

The Heritage Foundation, the far-right advocacy group responsible for Project 2025, which provides a blueprint for desired policy changes during a second Trump term, directly called for such exclusions in a statement regarding its plans for Department of Labor initiatives.

“ERISA should not be allowed to trump states’ ability to protect innocent human life in the womb,” the statement reads. “Congress and DOL should clarify that ERISA does not preempt states’ power to restrict abortion, surrogacy, or other anti-life ‘benefits.’”

Trump—who has repeatedly taken credit for the US Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade—has been notably unclear in public statements about how he’d approach the issue of reproductive rights in a second term, though he’s repeatedly suggested that he would leave many decisions about abortion access, birth control, and so-called “fetal personhood” laws up to individual states if reelected this fall.

Last month, he told a Pittsburgh reporter that his team was “looking at” the possibility of restricting birth control access at the federal level. Trump also suggested in an April interview with Time Magazine that he would be open to the idea of allowing law enforcement agencies in red states to track pregnancies and pursue criminal prosecution against health care providers found to be involved in abortion services.

Trump team also targeting ‘reasonable accommodations’ rule for abortions

While there’s some doubt about the legality of implementing proposed changes to ERISA, abortion rights advocates worry that Trump’s Labor Department appointees could forge ahead with efforts to eliminate abortion access in a post-Roe America. Far-right organizations like the Heritage Foundation remain hyper-focused on closing all perceived loopholes to abortion access nationwide—and the fact that some of Trump’s closest allies are affiliated with these organizations amplifies concerns.

Jonathan Berry, who penned the Heritage Foundation’s statement about modifying ERISA to exclude abortion, is said to be in consideration for a top Labor Department position during a potential second Trump term. Berry also served as an assistant Labor Department secretary during Trump’s first term.

And the Washington Post’s reporting says that Trump’s team is also looking into the possibility of revoking a new federal rule that requires employers to offer “reasonable accommodations” for workers seeking abortions in the form of unpaid time off and other aid. The rule, issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), is part of the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

Trump officials would face a long battle to eliminate the EEOC rule, legal experts told the Post, but its revocation remains a top priority for religious organizations and anti-abortion groups.

When asked about reported threats to reproductive rights, Trump campaign officials have sought to end media speculation about what a second Trump term might entail.

“The media, in their anti-Trump zeal, has been all-to-willing to continue using anonymous sourcing and speculation about a second Trump administration in an effort to prevent a second Trump administration,” said advisors Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita in a 2023 press release that has repeatedly been referenced in response to questions about policy priorities.

“Let us be very specific here: unless a message is coming directly from President Trump or an authorized member of his campaign team, no aspect of future presidential staffing or policy announcements should be deemed official.”

Despite the Trump campaign’s attempts to create public separation between themselves and their conservative allies, The Heritage Foundation itself has previously boasted about Trump’s close adherence to their policies, even stating that the former president followed “nearly two-thirds” of their “Mandate for Leadership” recommendations during his first term. Project 2025, which directly details plans to exclude abortion care from employee insurance coverage, is also explicitly designed to staff and guide a second Trump administration.

  • Sophie Boudreau

    Sophie Boudreau is a writer and editor with nearly a decade of experience covering lifestyle, culture, and political topics. She previously served as senior editor at eHow and produced Michigan and Detroit content for Only In Your State.

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