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On Friday, the Trump administration issued a new rule allowing employers with a “sincerely held religious or moral objection” not to comply with an Obama-era policy requiring that they provide birth control for employees.

The rule, promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), followed one of President Donald Trump's executive orders promising to “protect and vigorously promote religious liberty.” According to HHS, the rule could free hundreds of employers from providing birth control while maintaining coverage for the vast majority — 99.9 percent — of women, CNN reported.

The controversial mandate, initiated as part of the Affordable Care Act, provoked dozens of lawsuits from roughly 200 entities, which HHS said could obtain the exemption.

Among the cases, the Supreme Court previously ruled that “closely held corporations” like Hobby Lobby could receive exemptions from providing certain types of birth control.

Policy experts contend, however, that the new rule could open the floodgates and allow other employers to stop providing contraception to employees.

Currently, more than 55 million women in the United States receive birth control without paying out-of-pocket and, according to the National Women's Law Center, the mandate produced $1.4 billion in cost-savings in 2013.

In a statement, birth control provider Planned Parenthood described the new rule as “an unacceptable attack on basic health care that the vast majority of women rely on”:

President of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards suggested in the statement that the Trump administration was inhibiting “a fundamental right” guaranteed to women. “We're talking about a fundamental right — to be able to decide whether and when you want to have children,” Richards said.

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