The Trump administration suggested on Thursday (4 May) that it may take aim at Obamacare's birth-control mandate, which requires insurance companies to cover contraception with no copay, or upfront fee.

The announcement came on the heels of President Donald Trump signing the Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.

"We will be taking action in short order to follow the president's instructions to safeguard the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who provide health insurance to their employees," Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a statement.

Price continued: "We welcome today's executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to reexamine the previous administration's interpretation of the Affordable Care Act's preventive services mandate, and commend President Trump for taking a strong stand for religious liberty."

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, offered an exemption for religious groups that were opposed to contraception on moral grounds. Organisations were required to notify the health department that they would not cover birth control to claim the exemption.

However, many religious organisations were against notifying the government because the government would make alternate arrangements to cover the employees. The groups argued that was equivalent to covering contraceptives themselves, The Guardian reports.

House Republicans took a step closer to repealing and replacing Obamacare on Thursday when they narrowly passed the healthcare bill by 217-213.

Planned Parenthood condemn order

According to The Hill, Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights groups slammed the executive order as harmful for women. "This executive order is not about protecting religious liberty—it is a direct attack on women's access to birth control. A woman's health should not be up to her boss or politicians," Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement.

"Americans did not vote to have their healthcare taken away or to have their access to birth control cut off," Ilyse Hogue, the president of Naral Pro-Choice America, said. The Guardian reported that the Center for Reproductive Rights, meanwhile, said it was ready to head to court to block the order.

The new executive order also directed the IRS to weaken its enforcement of the Johnson amendment, a rule that prohibits churches and other tax-exempt groups from endorsing political candidates. While Congress would need to officially scrap the law, the order will reduce the likelihood that a religious organisation would be penalised if one of its leaders endorsed a candidate.

"We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced any more and we will never ever stand for religious discrimination," Trump said during the signing in the White House Rose Garden, surrounded by faith leaders. "With this executive order, we are ending the attacks on your religious liberty."