A federal court on Tuesday blocked new rules established by the Trump administration that would have allowed employers with religious or moral objections to opt out of an Obamacare requirement that includes birth control coverage in employee health insurance plans.
Two out of the three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit concluded that a birth control exemption violated the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, which requires all employers to provide birth control coverage with no co-payment.
The Health and Human Services Department, Labor Department, and Treasury Department in 2017, started adopting new rules that allowed religious groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, to opt out of the requirement to provide birth control coverage for employees, the National Review reported. The rules were finalized in 2018 but have not been enforced.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra spearheaded a lawsuit with 13 other states against the religious exemption rules.
“It’s a simple concept: a woman and her doctor are the only people qualified to decide what’s best for her health. Today will serve as a reminder to the Trump Administration that politicians and employers certainly have no business interfering with women’s reproductive healthcare,” Becerra said in a statement, according to the Washington Times.
Tuesday's decision blocked the new rules from going into effect in California, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Illinois, Washington, Minnesota, Connecticut, North Carolina, Vermont, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia, Bloomberg Law News reported.
Judge J. Clifford Wallace, who was nominated by President Nixon, wrote in the majority decision that “the religious exemption contradicts congressional intent that all women have access to appropriate preventative care and the exemption operates in a manner fully at odds with the careful, individualized, and searching review mandated by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld, who was nominated by President George H. W. Bush, dissented, writing that the 14-state lawsuit was brought before the court in an effort to save states money, not to protect women's reproductive rights. He also wrote that a ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which blocked the implementation of the Trump administration rules nationwide, renders this case moot.
“The casual reader may imagine that the dispute is about provision of contraception and abortion services to women. It is not.” Kleinfeld wrote. “No woman sued for an injunction in this case, and no affidavits have been submitted from any women establishing any question in this case about whether they will be deprived of reproductive services or harmed in any way by the modification of the regulation. This case is a claim by several states to prevent a modification of a regulation from going into effect, claiming that it will cost them money.”