Federal judges have blocked the Trump administration from weakening the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate in two separate orders that bar the President from letting more entities claim exemptions.
On Jan. 14, U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a temporary nationwide ban on two rules that would have allowed an expanded group of employers and insurers to object to providing contraception coverage on either religious or moral grounds. The regulations, announced Nov. 7, 2018, were scheduled to take effect Jan. 14. The day before, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam for the Northern District of California issued a similar temporary ban, but his order applied only to the 13 plaintiff states in the case, plus the District of Columbia.
While Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the only plaintiffs in the Judge Beetlestone case, she wrote that a nationwide injunction is required to protect numerous citizens from losing contraceptive coverage and resulting in “significant, direct, and proprietary harm” to states in the form of increased state-funded contraceptive services and increased costs associated with unintended pregnancies. Judge Gilliam provided similar reasoning in his Jan. 13, writing that the 13 plaintiff states have proven that rules promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would cause women to lose employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage, resulting in economic harm to the states.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a plaintiff in the second case, said Judge Gilliam’s ruling will stop the Trump administration from denying millions of women and families access to co-pay birth control guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act.
“The law couldn’t be clearer – employers have no business interfering in women’s health care decisions,” Mr. Becerra said in the. “[The] court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump administration to trample on women’s access to basic reproductive care.”
At press time, the Trump administration officials had responded publicly to the court orders. The administration previously said the new policies would “better balance the government’s interest in promoting coverage for contraceptive and sterilization services with the government’s interests in providing conscience protections for entities with sincerely held moral convictions.” HHS estimated that the rules would affect no more than 200 employers.