Courts block Trump from eroding contraceptive mandate


Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal institute that defends religious freedoms, expressed disappointment at the court orders. Becket represents the Little Sisters of the Poor, an organization that has been fighting for several years for an exemption to the contraceptive mandate.

“Government bureaucrats should not be allowed to threaten the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor to serve according to their Catholic beliefs,” Mr. Rienzi said in a statement. “Now the nuns are forced to keep fighting this unnecessary lawsuit to protect their ability to focus on caring for the poor. We are confident these decisions will be overturned.”

The ACA initially required all employers to cover birth control for employees with no copayments, except for group health plans of religious employers, which were deemed exempt. Those religious employers were primarily churches and other houses of worship. After a number of complaints and legal challenges, the Obama administration created a workaround for nonprofit religious employers to opt out of the mandate.

However, critics argued the process itself was a violation of their religious freedom. The issue led to the case of Zubik v. Burwell, a legal challenge over the mandate exemption that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2016. The issue was never resolved. In May 2016, the Supreme Court vacated the lower court rulings related to Zubik v. Burwell and remanded the case back to the four appeals courts that had originally ruled on the issue.

The Trump administration then announced new rules aimed at broadening exemptions to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate to entities that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. A second rule would protect nonprofit organizations and small businesses that have nonreligious moral convictions that oppose services covered by the mandate. The religious and moral exemptions would apply to institutions of education, issuers, and individuals, but not to governmental entities.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia then sued the Trump administration over the rules as well as Pennsylvania and New Jersey in a separate case.

The nationwide ban against the rules will remain in effect while the cases continue through the court system.


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