These judges just blocked Trump's attack on birth control access

These judges just blocked Trump's attack on birth control access
Image via Flickr

This week got off to a rocky start for President Donald Trump in the federal courts.

On Sunday, a federal judge in California blocked enforcement of Trump's new regulatory changes to the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate, which were supposed to take effect on Monday. Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr. found in favor of the challenge by 13 Democratic states and the District of Columbia, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, saying the rules could cause "potentially dire public health and fiscal consequences" by increasing unplanned pregnancies and the operating costs of state clinics which would then have to provide this care themselves.

That ruling only covers the specific states that brought the lawsuit. But less than 24 hours later, another federal judge in Pennsylvania, Wendy Beetlestone, issued a second injunction that applies nationwide, putting the rules on hold altogether.

"The law couldn't be clearer — employers have no business interfering in women's healthcare decisions," said Becerra. "Today's court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump Administration to trample on women's access to basic reproductive care."

The ACA provides that all qualified health plans, including from employers, must cover a full range of contraceptive treatments with zero co-pay, but this rule has always infuriated religious nonprofits and organizations — particularly the inclusion of the morning-after pill and intrauterine devices, which some people wrongly believe can induce abortion of an implanted zygote.

The Obama administration tried to accommodate religious objections, passing rules that allowed religious nonprofits to opt out of paying the cost and shift responsibility for covering these treatments to insurance companies. However, some nonprofits even objected to the act of signing the form to opt out and sued over that.

In 2017, Trump's Department of Health and Human Services announced new rules, finalized last November, that would have completely obliterated this arrangement. Under the new rules, any business or organization could claim a religious exemption to the contraceptive mandate, and any business or organization except publicly-traded corporations could claim a more loosely-defined "moral" exemption. Moreover, the arrangement of letting insurers pay the cost directly would be dropped, allowing companies to simply deny birth control to women altogether.

The litigation will likely continue. But for now, Trump's plan to throw out a key provision of Obama's signature health care law has been dealt a resounding blow.

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