Federal courts have, for now, blocked new federal rules that would create religious and moral exemptions allowing employers to opt out of providing free birth control to women as required by the Affordable Care Act when offering insurance plans.
Washington is among 13 states that filed a case against the proposed rules and were first given an injunction. Their case challenges new rules the Trump administration first floated in 2017 that were set to take effect on Monday, Jan. 14. The day the new rule was set to start, a federal judge in Philadelphia issued an injunction that also prevented the rules from taking effect nationwide.
In her decision, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone wrote that, "The negative effects of even a short period of decreased access to no-cost contraceptive services is irreversible," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Up to 126,400 women could be impacted by the broadened exemptions and states could bear millions of dollars in costs related to unexpected pregnancies, according to court documents.
"This is a big win for reproductive health care but it's unbelievable that we're still fighting for access to birth control in 2019," says Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, by email. "Birth control is health care — no matter what the Trump-Pence administration thinks or whether your boss agrees with it."
Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for Alex Azar II, secretary of Health and Human Services, tells the New York Times that the rules put forward by the Trump administration are intended to uphold Americans' rights under the Constitution.
"No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our healthcare system," Oakley tells the Times.