JUDGE BLOCKS COV­ER­AGE RULES

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Sud­hin Thanawala

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion tried to al­low em­ploy­ers to opt out of pro­vid­ing no-cost birth con­trol.

OAK­LAND, CALIF.» A U.S. judge in Cal­i­for­nia on Sun­day blocked Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion rules, which would al­low more em­ploy­ers to opt out of pro­vid­ing women with no-cost birth con­trol, from tak­ing ef­fect in 13 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Judge Hay­wood Gil­liam granted a re­quest for a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion by Cal­i­for­nia, 12 other states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The plain­tiffs sought to pre­vent the rules from tak­ing ef­fect as sched­uled on Mon­day while a law­suit against them moved for­ward.

But Gil­liam lim­ited the scope of the rul­ing to the plain­tiffs, re­ject­ing their re­quest that he block the rules na­tion­wide.

The changes 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.

Cal­i­for­nia and the other states ar­gue that women would be forced to turn to state­funded pro­grams for birth con­trol and ex­pe­ri­ence un­in­tended preg­nan­cies.

“The law couldn’t be more clear — em­ploy­ers have no busi­ness in­ter­fer­ing in women’s health­care de­ci­sions,” Cal­i­for­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Xavier Be­cerra said in a state­ment Sun­day. “To­day’s court rul­ing stops an­other at­tempt by the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion to tram­ple on women’s ac­cess to ba­sic re­pro­duc­tive care. It’s 2019, yet the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion is still try­ing to roll back women’s rights. Our coali­tion will con­tinue to fight to en­sure women have ac­cess to the re­pro­duc­tive health­care they are guar­an­teed un­der the law.”

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

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 and added “moral con­vic­tions” as a ba­sis to opt out of pro­vid­ing birth con­trol ser­vices.

At a hear­ing on Fri­day, Gil­liam said the changes would re­sult in a “sub­stan­tial num­ber” of women los­ing birth con­trol cov­er­age, which would be a “mas­sive pol­icy shift.”

The judge pre­vi­ously blocked an in­terim ver­sion of the rules — a de­ci­sion that was up­held in De­cem­ber by an ap­peals court.

The rul­ing af­fects Cal­i­for­nia, Con­necti­cut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illi­nois, Mary­land, Min­nesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Is­land, Ver­mont, Vir­ginia, Wash­ing­ton and the Dis­trict of Columbia.

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