In October 2017, the Trump administration rolled back the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act, and moved to expand the rights of employers to deny women insurance coverage for contraception. The Trump administration then decided they would put the religious rights of employers above the rights of women to have their healthcare needs met.
This hasn’t been met without challenges though. On Monday, a second federal judge in Pennsylvania blocked the Trump administration from implementing a rule allowing employers to decline to offer contraception on religious or moral grounds.
According to NPR:
‘U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia imposed a nationwide injunction Monday which has wider effect than a similar ruling issued Sunday by a federal judge in California.
‘The policy was set to go into effect nationwide Monday. But U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. blocked the Trump administration’s bid to greatly expand the number of employers that could claim the exemption from the health care law.’
Judge Gilliam Jr. put the rule on hold for 13 states and the District of Columbia, which challenged the rule in court.
In Judge Beetlestone’s ruling, she said that states would be harmed by the Trump administration’s policy because women who lost contraceptive coverage would seek state-funded services.
‘The Affordable Care Act requires most companies to offer employees health insurance that covers FDA-approved birth control at no cost. But Trump has long promised employers that he would “vigorously” protect their rights to religious freedom. So the Trump administration developed rules to make it easier for more employers to opt out of the ACA requirement.’
Judge Gilliam, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2014 to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California wrote that the challengers “have raised serious questions going to the merits, on their claim that the Religious Exemption and the Moral Exemption are inconsistent with the Women’s Health Amendment.”
The states have argued that the new policy “cannot be reconciled with the text and purpose of the ACA — which seeks to promote access to women’s healthcare, not limit it.”
Gilliam was clear that if he did not block Trump’s policy tens of thousands of women would lose coverage, and under the ACA, the Women’s Health Amendment requires employer-provided health insurance to include coverage for free or low-cost birth control.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement:
‘The law couldn’t be clearer — employers have no business interfering in women’s healthcare decisions. Today’s court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump Administration to trample on women’s access to basic reproductive care.’
In 2014, the Supreme Court decided on behalf of Hobby Lobby that privately held companies with religious objections could refuse to offer contraceptive coverage. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that those companies “have the right to exercise their religious beliefs even if it means that their beliefs will impose certain restrictions on their employees.”
For now, Trump’s new policy has been halted from taking effect in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.
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