Appeal Court Blocks Trump Birth Control Exemptions

A federal appeals court Friday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing new rules allowing employer exemptions from requirements to provide birth control coverage for women.

The Philadelphia-based Third US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that only a national order would protect women from the rules that gave employers expanded religious and moral objections they could raise to providing contraceptive coverage under Obamacare.

Judge Patty Shwartz said the rules allowing employers to opt-out of contraceptive insurance coverage set to take effect in 2018 were not authorized by the Affordable Care Act, generally known as Obamacare.

She found the state attorneys general for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, who filed the lawsuit, were likely to succeed on the merits of the case so the changes should be blocked until the case is decided. The panel agreed to keep in place the nationwide injunction against the exemptions.

In 2010, Obamacare guidelines included a mandate for preventative care for women, that included contraceptive care. By 2013, agencies provided interim rules to exempt certain religious employers, namely churches and similar entities from the mandate.

A variety of challenges followed seeking to expand accommodations. In 2014, the Supreme Court in the “Hobby Lobby” case said that accommodation must be extended to “closely-held for-profit corporations with sincere religious objections.”

Then in May 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing agencies to consider regulations to conscience-based objections to contraceptive care. Without issuing notices of potential rule change, or soliciting comment. The agencies issued to new proposed rules that included religious and moral objections that greatly expanded the prior church accommodations.

Case: Pennsylvania v. Trump, 17-3752

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