Judge: Women could lose birth con­trol cov­er­age un­der rule

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - NATION & WORLD -

OAK­LAND, Calif. — A U.S. judge said Fri­day that a “sub­stan­tial num­ber” of women would lose free birth con­trol cov­er­age un­der new rules by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that al­low more em­ploy­ers to opt out of pro­vid­ing the ben­e­fit on re­li­gious and moral grounds.

Judge Hay­wood Gil­liam made the com­ment at a con­tin­u­ing hear­ing over Cal­i­for­nia and other states’ at­tempt to block the rules.

The changes set to go into ef­fect on Mon­day would al­low more em­ploy­ers, in­clud­ing pub­licly traded com­pa­nies, to opt out of pro­vid­ing no-cost con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age to women by claim­ing re­li­gious ob­jec­tions. Some pri­vate em­ploy­ers could also ob­ject on moral grounds.

Gil­liam pre­vi­ously blocked an in­terim ver­sion of those rules — a de­ci­sion that was up­held in De­cem­ber by an ap­peals court.

The case is be­fore him again af­ter the ad­min­is­tra­tion fi­nal­ized the mea­sures in Novem­ber, prompt­ing a re­newed le­gal chal­lenge by the states.

At is­sue is a re­quire­ment un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law that birth con­trol ser­vices be cov­ered at no ad­di­tional cost. Obama of­fi­cials in­cluded ex­emp­tions for re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­panded those ex­emp­tions.

The rules “pro­tect a nar­row class of sin­cere re­li­gious and moral ob­jec­tors from be­ing forced to fa­cil­i­tate prac­tices that con­flict with their be­liefs,” the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice said.

The states ar­gue that mil­lions of women could lose free birth con­trol ser­vices, forc­ing them to seek con­tra­cep­tive care through state-run pro­grams and lead­ing to un­in­tended preg­nan­cies.

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