FILE PHOTO: An illustration photo shows a woman holding a contraceptive pill at her home in Nice on January 3, 2013. REUTERS / Eric Gaillard / Photo File
US District Judge Wendy Beetlestone, in Philadelphia, issued a national injunction barring the application of the rules, one day after another judge issued a more limited ruling blocking their application in 13 states and the US. District of Columbia.
The rules would allow corporations or non-profit organizations to raise religious or moral objections to derogations from the Obamacare mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage in health insurance without cost-sharing.
"The negative effects of even a short reduction in access to free contraceptive services are irreversible," said Beetlestone.
The rules were published by the US Departments of Health and Social Services (HHS), Labor and Treasury and were to come into effect on Monday.
They have been prosecuted by several Democratic attorneys general, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, whose case was in front of Beetlestone.
The judge wrote that the rules were beyond the scope of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which prohibits HHS from providing such exemptions.
It added that a national injunction blocking the application of the rules was necessary given the harm that States would suffer if they entered into force. Beetlestone cited the costs that states would incur to provide contraceptive coverage to the women themselves if the rules came into effect.
According to Beetlestone, about 70,500 women would lose their coverage, exposing them to the risk of unwanted pregnancies.
The US Department of Justice, which has defended the rules in court, should appeal. "Religious organizations should not be forced to violate their mission and their deep convictions," the statement said.
The lawsuit was filed after the administration of Republican President Donald Trump in October 2017 unveiled interim rules that targeted the contraceptive mandate implemented as part of Obamacare.
In December 2017, Beetlestone issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the application of these provisional rules. The administration then published similar final rules that superseded the provisional rules.
Beetlestone's decision Monday came after US District Judge Haywood Gilliam, in Oakland, California, issued a preliminary injunction on Sunday to prevent the rules from being enforced.
But Gilliam limited the impact of his decision to only those states that have pursued the lawsuit before him. Earlier, he had issued a national injunction against the interim rules, but a federal court of appeal had subsequently reduced the scope.
Reportage of Nate Raymond in Boston; Edited by Grant McCool, Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot