A day after Republicans expanded their Senate majority, the Trump administration on Wednesday finalized a policy change that allows some employers with religious or moral objections to opt out of providing no-cost birth control for female workers.
The new regulations from several federal agencies apply mainly to religious organizations, nonprofits and small businesses. Women's rights groups already suing the administration over an earlier version of the opt-out vowed to continue their court battle.
Starting next year, the new Democratic majority in the House is expected to scrutinize the administration policies on women's health.
Under former President Barack Obama's health care law, most employers must cover birth control at no charge as a preventive service for women. Accommodating religious objections has been a sticking point for years.
President Donald Trump's administration has broadened narrower exemptions and workarounds that Obama permitted, moves favored by social conservatives who are staunch supporters of the president.
Also on Wednesday, the administration proposed tighter rules on "Obamacare" plans that cover abortion. The administration said those changes are intended to ensure that taxpayer-provided subsidies for health insurance are not used to pay for abortions.
The vast majority of employers offer birth control benefits through their health plans. Large companies whose stock is sold to investors won't be eligible for the opt-out, and neither will governmental employers.
It's unclear how many women will be affected by the new policy.
AP VoteCast, a national election survey, found contrasting views on abortion.
In the midterm elections, more voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases than said it should be illegal in all or most cases, 60 percent to 39 percent. However, among white evangelical Christians in particular, just about a quarter say abortion should be legal in at least most cases.
White evangelical voters broke heavily for Republican congressional candidates on the ballot, by roughly 4 to 1.
AP VoteCast is a nationwide survey of more than 115,000 voters and 20,000 nonvoters conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.