Federal court blocks Trump's rollback of contraception coverage | Arkansas Blog

Federal court blocks Trump's rollback of contraception coverage


Federal Judge Wendy Beetlestone today ordered a temporary injunction halting new rules initiated by the Trump administration that would have limited women's access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act. 

The ACA requires birth control to be covered by employers (certain religious organizations are exempted). The new rules, issued by the Trump administration in October, would have allowed almost any employer to opt out of providing contraception as part of its insurance coverage because of religious beliefs or moral convictions.

A number of states have sued, including Pennsylvania, which secured the temporary injunction today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.

Beetlestone wrote that "the ACA contains no statutory language allowing the Agencies to create such sweeping exemptions to the requirements to cover 'preventive services,' which, as interpreted by those same agencies, include mandatory no-cost coverage of contraceptive services. Nor does any rule of statutory construction warrant these exemptions."

The "moral exemption rule," in particular, was likely too broad, Beetlestone found:

The Moral Exemption Rule allows any non-profit or for-profit organization that is not publicly traded to deny contraceptive coverage for its employees for any sincerely held moral conviction. This means that boards of closely held corporations can vote, or their executives can decide, to deny contraceptive coverage for the corporation’s women employees not just for religious reasons but also for any inchoate – albeit sincerely held – moral reason they can articulate. Who determines whether the expressed moral reason is sincere or not or, for that matter, whether it falls within the bounds of morality or is merely a preference choice, is not found within the terms of the Moral Exemption Rule. If one assumes that it is the Agency Defendants – or, indeed, any agency – then the Rule has conjured up a world where a  government entity is empowered to impose its own version of morality on each one of us. That cannot be right.
Without a preliminary injunction, Beetlestone ruled, irreparable harm could be suffered, not least by the women who would be denied coverage:

The real life consequences, as amici point out, are significant: roughly 41% of unintended pregnancies in America are caused by inconsistent use of contraceptives. These problems are particularly acute in Pennsylvania, where the rate of unintended pregnancy is 53%, significantly higher than the national average. Tr. 152. The negative effects of even a short period of decreased access to no-cost contraceptive services are irreversible.  
Here's Beetleston's opinion.

The injunction will block the rule from being implemented nationwide while the case in Pennsylvania proceeds.

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