NJ, PA win injunction blocking rules that would deny women no-cost contraception

Linda Lindner//January 15, 2019

NJ, PA win injunction blocking rules that would deny women no-cost contraception

Linda Lindner//January 15, 2019

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Monday that New Jersey and Pennsylvania won a nationwide preliminary injunction in their joint lawsuit to block the rollback of federal rules that protect women’s health by promoting the availability of no-cost contraceptive coverage.

In Philadelphia, Federal court Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a nationwide injunction on Monday preventing the Trump administration from interfering with women’s access to free birth control guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act.

The decision extends a losing streak for President Trump, who has repeatedly been set back in his efforts to allow employers to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives to which the employers object on religious or moral grounds.

Over the weekend, in a separate lawsuit, a federal judge in California blocked the same rules, but that ruling was limited to a smaller number of states. Without the injunction secured by New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the rules would have taken effect Monday.

As explained in the court’s decision, the Women’s Health Amendment to the ACA mandated that insurance providers cover preventive health services and screenings for women without cost-sharing responsibilities. In 2011, a federal agency, the Health Resources and Services Administration, determined that contraceptive methods were among the preventive care covered by the Women’s Health Amendment.

The Obama Administration established a process for accommodating certain religious employers and other organizations that objected to providing contraceptive coverage for their employees. In rules issued in November 2018, the Trump Administration adopted significantly expanded these exceptions to the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage, prompting the lawsuit by New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In Monday’s ruling, the court agreed that the new rules would harm New Jersey and Pennsylvania financially by permitting “more employers to exempt themselves from the Contraceptive Mandate, which would result in more of the States’ women seeking state-funded sources of contraceptive care.” The court also agreed with the states that the federal government violated the law in issuing the rules.

The organizations supporting New Jersey and Pennsylvania’s lawsuit include: California Women Lawyers; Girls Inc.; If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice; Lawyers Club of San Diego; Service Employees International Union; American Association of University Women;  American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees AFL-CIO; American Federation of Teachers;  Colorado Women’s Bar Association;  National Association of Social Workers; National Association of Women Lawyers;  Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia, and the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts. Also providing amicus support were: the National Association for Female Executives; U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce;  Physicians for Reproductive Health; American Academy of Nursing;  American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology;  American Nurses’ Association; National Women’s Law Center; National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; SisterLove Inc., and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.