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Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration's Rules in 13 States That Would Limit Birth Control


Update: Federal judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia blocked the Trump administration’s new rules concerning birth control coverage for all states late Monday. Beetlestone cited high costs to states and said the Affordable Care Act prohibits exemptions like these. Beetlestone’s injunction is not permanent but will allow access to birth control for now.

A federal judge in California prevented additional employers from denying coverage for birth control in 13 states and Washington, D.C. on Sunday. The ruling, which otherwise went into affect nationwide on Monday, was in response to the Trump administration’s rollback on an Obama-era mandate.

Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. granted a preliminary injunction to 13 states and the nation’s capital, according to the Associated Press. Though Gilliam’s decision prevents the changes in these states for now, it isn’t permanent.

Under the Trump administration’s new rules now affecting a majority of the U.S., more employers may deny coverage for contraceptives, which were previously provided at no-cost under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Trump administration’s rules expanded the ACA’s original religious organization exemptions to allow nearly any employer with religious or moral objections to birth control the ability to deny coverage.

While the conversation about contraceptives is largely about preventing pregnancies, hormonal birth control (usually the pill) is prescribed for multiple health issues and symptoms. It’s commonly prescribed to women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, painful periods and many other health issues. Though it’s used to treat symptoms, birth control is not a cure for these conditions.

The 13 states and D.C. filed a complaint over the final rules the Trump administration published in November, so Gilliam’s injunction prevents the rules from taking effect until the complaint is resolved in court. The rules were revised in November after the original exemptions issued in 2017 were also blocked by Gilliam.

These states and D.C. also made a case for a “reasonably probable threat” to state economies. They argued more women would turn to state-funded clinics to receive no-cost contraceptives, putting a higher burden on the state. The states and D.C. also argued that the rules would lead to more unintended pregnancies, which could pose “significant costs on the States.”

Gilliam accepted the request to block the administration’s rules from these states and D.C. because they showed that the new rules were not “in accordance with” the ACA, according to Gilliam’s ruling. The states included along with D.C. are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Virginia.

Photo via Getty Images/crankyT