Monday, January 14, 2019
Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Blocking Trump Administration's Roll Back of Birth Control Mandate
A federal judge on Sunday granted a request by more than a dozen states to temporarily block the Trump administration from putting into effect new rules that would make it easier for employers to deny women health insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Contraception is covered by the Affordable Care Act as a preventive health service, something employers and insurers are generally required to provide at no charge. But the Trump administration developed rules to allow employers to opt out of the mandate if they had religious or moral objections.
A version of those rules was stymied by the courts in 2017, so the administration issued a new set of rules in November, which had been scheduled to take effect on Monday.
However, the judge, Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. of the United States District Court in Oakland, Calif., granted a request by 13 states and the District of Columbia for a preliminary injunction, writing that the new rules “are nearly identical to” the ones that he had previously blocked.
The plaintiffs, he wrote, had done enough to bolster their claim that the religious exemption and the moral exemption sought by the Trump administration were “not in accordance with” the Affordable Care Act.
After Judge Gilliam blocked the initial rules, the Trump administration appealed. Last month the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling but limited the injunction’s scope.
With that ruling in mind, Judge Gilliam made clear that the preliminary injunction he granted on Sunday bars enforcement in only the states that sued.
“The Court fully recognizes that limiting the scope of this injunction to the plaintiff states means that women in other states are at risk of losing access to cost-free contraceptives when the final rules take effect,” he wrote in Sunday’s order.
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," wrote Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr., who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2014. The states had 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."