Judge Blocks Trump Administration's Changes To The Birth Control Mandate

Photographed by Megan Madden.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania temporarily blocked the Trump administration on Friday from implementing new rules that would make it easier for employers to stop offering birth control coverage to their employers due to religious or moral reasons.

In early October, the Department of Health and Human Services partially rolled back the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate. The Obama-era rule required employers to offer birth control coverage without a copay in their healthcare plans. The rule also included exceptions for churches, for-profit organizations, and charities that raised religious or moral-based objections to covering contraception.

What the Trump administration did was issue new regulations widely expanding which employers could raise moral and religious objections to covering birth control, making it easier for them to opt out of offering contraception coverage all together. The decision led to several lawsuits that argued the new rules would irrevocably hurt women across the nation. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro sued the Trump administration, arguing the new regulations undermine women's health.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a preliminary injunction in Pennsylvania that would apply nationwide. In her written opinion, she explained she believes the new regulations could cause "harm to the health, safety, and wellness of the Commonwealth’s female residents."

She also wrote that taking into account the testimonies of the doctors who Pennsylvania brought before the court, she concluded that if women no-longer obtained co-pay free contraception two situations could arise that would cause harm: Either the women would turn to "state or local programs" that offer cost-free birth control, which would cost the state money, or they would stop using birth control entirely, which increases the chances of unplanned pregnancies, which could impose "additional costs on Pennsylvania’s state funded health programs."

Women's health advocates celebrated the decision. In a statement provided to Refiner29, Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called a ruling a victory for reproductive rights.

“We applaud Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro for protecting access to birth control. Trump’s harmful attack on birth control shows a fundamental disdain for women’s health and lives by putting the health of 62.4 million women at risk," she said. "There’s no doubt about it: Improving birth control access has led to historic lows in pregnancy among teenagers, unintended pregnancy, and the abortion rate. We cannot afford to roll back the progress we’ve seen under the Affordable Care Act."

For Nicole Cheetham, director of International Youth Health and Rights Division with Advocates for Youth, the temporary injunction is a win for young people, especially those who would have difficulty paying for contraception out-of-pocket.

"The rollback is gravely irresponsible, making it more difficult for women across the country to access contraception, especially young women who may not be able to pay out of pocket. Young people have spoken over and over against the many attacks this administration has tried to throw their way, including their right to plan if and when to parent," she told Refinery29 in a statement. "The court is right to challenge Trump’s attempt to marginalize young women by essentially taking away a means to prevent pregnancy and to take care of their reproductive health and wellbeing."

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