(CNN) - The Affordable Care Act’s controversial contraceptive mandate may be weakened due to new rules made official Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The two rules, first issued last year on an interim basis, allow a number of employers, including non-profits and small businesses, to stop offering contraceptives through their health insurance plan if they object for religious or moral reasons.
About 200 employers who have such objections will be affected by the rules, according to the HHS. They will take effect early next year.
Under the ACA, employer-provided insurance plans were required to cover birth control as a preventive service.
Policy experts argue this could set a precedent for more employers to drop contraceptive coverage and note that many women use birth control for more than pregnancy prevention, including treatment of hormonal imbalances and endometriosis.
Several lawsuits, filed when the rules were first issued, are pending.
HHS says government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low-income women will continue.