WASHINGTON – A federal court on Monday issued a national injunction barring the Trump administration from preventing women from accessing free birth control guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act.
The decision, made by Justice Wendy Beetlestone of the Federal District Court of Philadelphia, prolongs the defeat of President Trump, who has been repeatedly postponed in his efforts to allow employers to refuse insurance coverage for contraceptives for which they oppose for religious or moral reasons. courses.
The rules were to come into effect on Monday. The states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey challenged the rules before Judge Beetlestone, saying they should shoulder much of the burden of providing contraceptives to women who had lost their protection under Trump administration rules.
"The harm caused by states is not merely speculative; it's real and imminent, "wrote Judge Beetlestone. "The latest rules estimate that at least 70,500 women will lose their coverage."
The Trump administration argued that states had not identified any person who lost coverage under the rules. Judge Beetlestone responded: "It is not necessary to wait for the ax to fall before an injunction is appropriate, especially when the accused have estimated that it will fall on thousands of women and, as a corollary, , on the states. "
Judge Beetlestone stated that the last rules could have serious consequences: "Many citizens lose their contraceptive coverage, which results in significant, direct and exclusive harm to states in the form of increased use of contraception funded by the state, as well as an increase in costs with unwanted pregnancies. "
His decision was made less than 24 hours after Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. of the Federal District Court in Oakland, California, received a request from 13 states and the District of Columbia block the rules in their jurisdictions.
"Women who lose their right to free contraceptives are less likely to use an effective method, or method at all – which results in unwanted pregnancies," said Judge Gilliam. In addition, he said, many women will likely "turn to state programs to get free contraceptives at a significant cost to the states."
Josh Shapiro, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, who initiated the lawsuit, welcomed Judge Beetlestone's decision.
"Today's decision is a victory for the health and economic independence of women in Pennsylvania and the United States," said Shapiro, a Democrat. "Women need contraception for their health because contraception is a medicine, pure and simple."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, also a Democrat, said: "The law could not be clearer. Employers have no reason to intervene in women's health decisions. "
President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March 2010. An article in the law requires coverage of preventive health services and screening for women. In August 2011, the Obama administration asked employers and insurers to provide women with free coverage for all methods of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
For its part, the Trump administration said the contraceptive coverage warrant imposed a "substantial burden" on the exercise of religion by some employers. The new rules, which relaxed the mandate, were in keeping with Mr. Trump's campaign promises that employers should not be "intimidated by the federal government because of their religious beliefs".
Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Social Services, was the respondent in both cases. Caitlin Oakley, spokesman for Mr Azar, reiterated the position of the administration after the court decisions.
"No American should be forced to violate his own conscience to comply with the laws and regulations that govern our health care system," Oakley said Monday. "The final rules reaffirm the Trump administration's commitment to respect the freedoms accorded to all Americans under our Constitution."
The administration said that employers who had moral objections to some forms of birth control should also be exempted from the contraceptive coverage mandate.
Congress and the courts have long recognized the importance of respecting moral and religious beliefs, the Trump government said. For example, he cited the exemption from military service offered to certain "conscientious objectors".
In addition, a first version of the First Amendment, proposed by James Madison, protected not only freedom of religion, but also "the full and equal right of conscience."
The decisions in Pennsylvania and California were preliminary injunctions. Judges in both cases stated that states were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims and suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a court order.
Mark L. Rienzi, president of the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, said Monday that his organization would appeal court decisions on behalf of its client, the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who oppose the mandate of contraception. .
"We have never wanted this fight, and we regret that after a long legal battle, it's still not over," said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters. "We pray to be able to dedicate our lives again to our ministry of service to the elderly poor, as we have done for over 175 years."