A Philadelphia Judge Blocks the Trump Administration's Birth Control Regulations

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A federal judge in Philadelphia blocked the implementation of the Trump administration's two new birth control regulations, which would have allowed employers with "religious and moral objections" to deny cost-free birth control coverage to its employees.

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued an injunction requested by Pennsylvania and New Jersey to apply to all states, finding that the new rules, which took effect Monday morning, violated the Affordable Care Act and would burden states taking over costs.

The Philadelphia judge's injunction came Monday, following another federal judge's injunction that exempted 13 states and Washington, D.C., from the new regulations, leaving the fate of birth control access for women in the remaining 37 states in temporary jeopardy.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led a coalition of attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington State, and Washington, D.C., to a successful preliminary injunction that blocked the Trump administration's new rules in those states.

"The law couldn't be clearer—employers have no business interfering in women’s health-care decisions," Becerra said in a statement Sunday. "Today's court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump administration to trample on women's access to basic reproductive care. It's 2019, yet the Trump administration is still trying to roll back women's rights. Our coalition will continue to fight to ensure women have access to the reproductive health care they are guaranteed under the law."

Under the ACA, employers were required to provide all forms of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives to employees, free of cost. Employers classified as a "house of worship" could be exempt from this rule.

After the Supreme Court's 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, the Obama administration exempted other employers, such as religiously affiliated non-profits and certain for-profit companies, as long as they gave employees an "accommodation" that would provide birth control coverage paid for by the company's insurance provider, rather than the company itself.

Under the Trump administration's new rules, employers would have had the option to opt out of providing accommodations, leaving employees without any cost-free birth control coverage. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said the new rules would uphold constitutional freedoms.

"No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health-care system," Oakley said in a statement, which did not indicate whether or not the Trump administration will appeal.

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