Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
A federal judge has blocked a Trump administrative rule that would greatly increase the number of employers who could not offer a contraceptive clause for moral or religious reasons.
Politics was due to come into force nationwide on Monday, but that was the case For 13 states and the District of Columbia, which had challenged the scheme in court, put on ice.
The Affordable Care Act requires most companies to offer their employees health insurance that covers FDA-approved birth control (19659010) free of charge. However, Trump has long promised employers that he will "vigorously" protect their rights to religious freedom. The Trump government therefore developed rules that should help more employers distance themselves from the ACA requirement.
The challengers "have raised serious questions relating to merit, claiming that religious liberation and moral liberation are incompatible with Women's Health Amendment," wrote Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr., who 2014 was nominated by President Barack Obama. The states had argued that the new policy "can not be reconciled with the text and purpose of the ACA, which seeks to foster access to women's health, not restrict."
The Women's Health Amendment is a provision of the ACA, one of Employer provided health insurance to ensure a free or low-cost birth control. Gilliam said that if he did not block Trump's new policies, tens of thousands of women could lose cover.
"The law could not be clearer – employers do not have a business that interferes with women's health decisions," said Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement that applauded the verdict. "Today's court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump administration to trample on women's access to basic reproductive care."
The Trump government changed the ACA in 2017 to protect employers' "rights of conscience" and let them refuse birth control coverage. The new policy of the Trump government was an attempt to significantly extend the earlier religious exceptions that apply only to religious employers. Trump's policy was immediately challenged in court.
The 2014 Supreme Court decision Hobby Lobby stated that privately-held companies with religious objections could refuse contraceptive contraception. Decision 5-4 found that these companies "have the right to exercise their religious beliefs, even if it means that their beliefs impose certain restrictions on their employees," said Nina Totenberg of NPR. Trump's new policy would also allow publicly traded companies to refuse contraception for religious or moral reasons, the Associated Press reported.
The judge's ruling blocks the effect of the directive in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.