10:24, January 15 115 0 abajournal.com

2019-01-15 10:24:06
Relaxation of contraception coverage mandate for employers blocked by 2 federal judges

Photo by Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com.

Federal judges in California and Pennsylvania have issued injunctions blocking the Trump administration from relaxing the requirement for many employers to offer contraception coverage.

In the more recent decision, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone of Philadelphia issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on Monday in a suit by the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, report the New York Times, BuzzFeed News, the Legal Intelligencer, NPR and the Washington Post.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of Oakland, California, issued the other preliminary injunction on Sunday. It blocked the relaxed rule from taking effect in 13 states and Washington, D.C.

The Obama administration had required many employers to provide free contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which requires larger employers to provide coverage of preventive health services and screenings for women.

The Trump administration wants to expand exemptions for employers’ religious objections to also allow exemptions based on “conscience rights.” The administration also wants to expand the type of employers allowed to claim the exemption to include publicly traded as well as closely held companies. The employers would not have to file any type of notice or certification before dropping the coverage.

The new rule had been scheduled to take effect on Monday. The judges had previously blocked an interim version of the rule.

Beetlestone said the states would suffer harm if the rule takes effect because they would have to increase expenditures for state-funded programs that provide contraceptive services under the new rule. There would also be increased costs associated with unintended pregnancies. “The states’ harm is not merely speculative; it is actual and imminent,” Beetlestone wrote.

Beetlestone found a likelihood of success on the states’ arguments that the government violated procedural requirements when it issued the new rule. She also said the rule change is not justified under the Affordable Care Act or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.