Employers in the United States will still have to provide health insurance covering women's birth control, after a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing new rules allowing employers to obtain exemptions from the Obamacare requirement.
In what advocacy groups hailed as a major victory for women's reproductive rights, a federal judge late Sunday stopped President Donald Trump's widely denounced attempt to roll back the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate from going into effect in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Trump administration rules that allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control can not be enforced anywhere in the nation, a federal judge wrote Monday in a decision blocking the rules from taking effect.
A judge in California on Sunday partially blocked a set of Trump administration rules that allow employers to opt out of providing health insurance that covers women's birth control from taking effect.
U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued the injunction Monday, stopping the government from enforcing rules scheduled to take effect imminently.
In a 65-page opinion, Beetlestone concludes the Trump administration's effort to carve out coverage of contraceptives for stricter limits than other types of preventive care "is inconsistent with the. text" of the ACA.
"My office just won big", tweeted Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
"The law couldn't be clearer - employers have no business interfering in women's healthcare decisions".
US District Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland granted a request by 14 Democratic attorneys general for a preliminary injunction. "We are now waiting on a Pennsylvania court to see whether women in the remaining 37 states will be able to do the same", Dr. Leana Wen, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
The states further contended that the new rules would force women to rely on state-funded programs and lead to an increase in unintended pregnancies.
The Trump administration wants to expand exemptions for employers' religious objections to also allow exemptions based on "conscience rights".
In October 2017, without notice or comment, the Trump Administration issued illegal interim final rules that allowed employers claiming religious or moral objections to contraception to ignore the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraceptive mandate.
At a hearing on Friday, Gilliam said the changes would result in a "substantial number" of women losing birth control coverage, which would be a "massive policy shift".
Courts objected to the new rules on the exemptions, which prompted a slight amendment by the administration. Obama officials included exemptions for religious organisations.
The ACA's birth control mandate requires that employer-provided health insurance plans include coverage for free or low-priced birth control.
A Justice Department spokeswoman, Kelly Laco, said in a statement: "As we've said before, religious organizations should not be forced to violate their mission and deeply-held beliefs".
The judge previously blocked an interim version of the rules - a decision that was upheld in December by an appeals court. The alterations to the contraceptive mandate's exemptions were first unveiled in the fall of 2017, and final rules were issued in November.