Federal judge blocks Trump administration's birth control rules granting new coverage exemptions

Federal judge blocks Trump administration's birth control rules granting new coverage exemptions

The Trump administration's effort to let companies with religious or moral objections opt out of Obamacare requirements that they offer free contraception coverage in their employee health care plans hit a road block in a California court on the eve of the new rules taking effect.

There is still a chance that a nationwide injunction could be issued in a separate case by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and his New Jersey counterpart, Gurbir Grewal.

"The law couldn't be clearer - employers have no business interfering in women's healthcare decisions", California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement applauding the ruling.

While Judge Haywood Gilliam did not make a final decision, he said the rules could mean a "substantial number" of women would lose birth control coverage, a "massive policy shift" which could breach federal law.

Prior to his limited order on Sunday, Gilliam had already granted a nationwide injunction against the interim birth control rules.

'Today's court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump administration to trample on women's access to basic reproductive care, Becerra said on Sunday.


The states had shown that the rules would result in the loss of employer-covered birth control coverage for thousands of women, forcing them to turn for contraceptives to state-funded programs or bear the costs themselves, Gilliam said.

Thirteen states - California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state, as well as Washington, D.C., sought the injunction to put the regulations on hold pending the states' lawsuit opposing them. The attorneys general in those polities requested that the new Trump policy not be implemented, as was scheduled to occur on Monday, so that a lawsuit challenging their legality can move forward. "These choices are private and just as employers would not intrude on these conversations in other discussions about women's health care, this is a unsafe intrusion on women's privacy and their ability to get the health care they need".

The judge wrote that the rules exceeded the scope of 2010's Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, which she said prohibits HHS from providing such exemptions. "And I saw a drastic change in my patients, both in their health and well-being, because they were able to get birth control without worrying about cost and access". Obama officials included exemptions for religious organisations.

The Justice Department has argued that the new rules "protect a narrow class of honest religious and moral objectors from being forced to facilitate practices that conflict with their beliefs".

The law provides an exception for religious organizations, but the Trump administration widened those exemptions in October 2017 and added "moral convictions" as legitimate grounds to opt out of covering birth control services. But administration of Republican President Donald Trump expanded those exemptions and added "moral convictions" as a basis to opt out of providing birth control services.

Ms Beetlestone, in December 2017, issued a preliminary injunction from blocking those interim rules from being enforced. The U.S. Supreme Court will probably have the final say on the matter.

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