Judge Blocks Trump Attempt to Roll Back Obama Policy Protecting Women's Healthcare
A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Friday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing new rules that would allow virtually any employer to claim a religious or moral objection to Obamacare's birth control coverage mandate.
Judge Wendy Beetlestone granted Pennsylvania's request for a preliminary injunction, saying the commonwealth could suffer "serious and irreparable harm" from the rules. The long-anticipated policies, imposed Oct. 6, greatly expand the exemptions to the health law's requirement to provide FDA-approved contraception at no cost.
“The Commonwealth’s concern is absent available cost-effective contraception, women will either forgo contraception entirely or choose cheaper but less effective methods — individual choices which will result in an increase in unintended pregnancies,” Beetlestone wrote in her 44-page opinion. “That in turn will inflict economic harm on the Commonwealth because unintended pregnancies are more likely to impose additional costs on Pennsylvania’s state-funded health programs.”
The Affordable Care Act requires employers to cover birth control with no cost sharing, with narrow exemptions. The Trump administration, in issuing its directive, has said it was acting to protect individuals and groups from being forced to violate their religious beliefs while downplaying concerns that more women would struggle to afford birth control.
A federal judge in California heard arguments over the same issue earlier this week and is expected issue a ruling soon. Four other states — Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia — have joined California in the motion.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement Friday that Congress hasn't changed the birth control requirements in the ACA, so the president "can’t simply ignore it with an illegal rule."
"Donald Trump broke the law to undermine women’s health, and women here in Pennsylvania stood up and proved that in court. Together we’ve won a nationwide halt to these rules, protecting women across the country," he said.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement the mandate has led to historic lows in pregnancy among teenagers, unintended pregnancy and the abortion rate. "We cannot afford to roll back the progress we’ve seen under the Affordable Care Act."