Blue states try to halt Trump's changes to contraceptive mandate

Rules scheduled to take effect on Jan. 14

By TAMI LUHBY, CNN
Shutterstock via CNN

(CNN) - Democratic states are seeking to block new Trump administration rules that would make it harder for some women to get birth control at no cost.

Lawyers for California and Pennsylvania appeared in separate district courts this week to challenge the rules, which would allow more employers to get exemptions to the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring them to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives with no co-pay.

The rules are scheduled to take effect on January 14.

The first one would allow non-profit and for-profit employers, including publicly traded companies, to receive an exemption based on their religious beliefs. The second would let all but public companies obtain an exemption based on moral objections. Government employers cannot request exemptions.

The changes are part of the Trump administration's efforts ton roll back regulations that conflict with some Americans' religious beliefs. The alterations to the contraceptive mandate's exemptions were first unveiled in the fall of 2017, and final rules were issued in November.

Under the Obama administration, a fairly limited number of employers -- mainly churches and some other religious entities -- could get an exemption.

Some others, such as religious-based universities or hospitals, could seek accommodations so that they didn't have to provide coverage, but their workers could still get contraceptives paid for by the insurer or the employer plan's administrator.

Democratic-led states successfully challenged the Trump administration's interim rules in federal district court. Pennsylvania won a nationwide injunction in late 2017, blocking the effort. California, which led a coalition of blue states, also won its effort to halt the interim rules, though an appellate court recently limited its scope to the five states that brought the lawsuit.

The Keystone State, supported by a coalition of 21 state attorneys general, on Thursday asked a federal judge to stop the final rules from taking effect. California, joined by 12 other states and the District of Columbia, appeared before a federal judge on Friday, who said he would rule before Monday, according to the attorney general's office.

"Women need contraception for their health because contraception is medicine, pure and simple," said Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania's attorney general. "Congress hasn't changed the law, and the President can't simply ignore it with an illegal rule."

The administration estimates that the final rules will impact no more than 127,000 women, but nearly 63 million women had insurance coverage that includes no-cost birth control in 2018, according to the National Women's Law Center.

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