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Judge Blocks Rule Change that Would Allow More Employers to Refuse Contraception Coverage

(Photo: Christy Thompson/Dreamstime)

A federal judge on Sunday night blocked a Trump administration rule change that would have expanded the pool of employers who are entitled to refuse to cover employees’ contraception due to religious or moral convictions.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr. found that the rule change would cause harm to the 13 Democratically-controlled states that have sued the administration to block the move. As a result, Gilliam stayed the implementation of the rule change, which was set to take place Monday, until the lawsuit is resolved.

Currently, churches and other closely-held private employers are exempt from the Obamacare requirement that all employers provide FDA-approved contraception through their employee health plans at no additional cost. The Trump administration is attempting to expand the religious and moral exemption so that virtually all employers would be eligible to claim it.

The Trump administration cast the injunction as a blow to religious freedom in a statement released Sunday night.

“No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system,” said Caitlin Oakley, spokeswoman for Health and Human Services. “The final rules affirm the Trump Administration’s commitment to upholding the freedoms afforded all Americans under our Constitution.”

California attorney general Xavier Beccera celebrated the ruling as a victory for women in the 13 states that received an injunction blocking the rule change.

“The law couldn’t be more clear — employers have no business interfering in women’s healthcare decisions,” Becerra said in a statement Sunday evening. “Today’s court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump Administration to trample on women’s access to basic reproductive care.”

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