OAKLAND, Calif. — Jan 11, 2019, 7:08 PM ET

Judge: Women would lose birth control coverage under rules

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A "substantial number" of women would lose birth control coverage under new rules by the Trump administration that allow more employers to opt out of providing the benefit, a U.S. judge said at a hearing on Friday.

Judge Haywood Gilliam appeared inclined to grant a request by California and other states that he block the rules while the states' lawsuit moves forward. He said he would rule before Monday, when the rules are set to take effect.

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.

Gilliam said the new rules would be a "massive policy shift" to women who lose coverage.

The judge previously blocked an interim version of the 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 California and other states. Twelve other states, including New York and North Carolina, along with Washington, D.C., have joined California in the lawsuit.

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 and some businesses. The Trump administration expanded those exemptions and added "moral convictions" as a basis to opt out of providing birth control services.

Karli Eisenberg, an attorney for California, told Gilliam Friday the loss of free contraceptive coverage from employers would force women to turn to government programs that provide birth control, and if they are ineligible for those, increase the risk of unintended pregnancies.

"It's undisputed that these rules will create barriers," she said.

The rules violate the Affordable Care Act, including a provision that forbids discrimination, she said.

Justin Sandberg, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, said the health care law already had exemptions for contraceptive coverage that left millions of women without the benefit. He said the birth control requirement was a "substantial burden" on employers with religious objections.

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 in court documents.

The states argue that millions of women could lose free birth control services under the new rules. They want Gilliam to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the rules for the entire nation.

Gilliam questioned whether a nationwide injunction was appropriate. He noted that a federal judge in Massachusetts had ruled against a similar challenge to the birth control rules, but a nationwide injunction would nonetheless block them in that state.

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  • toddyo1935

    We're aborting and birth controlling ourselves out of existence. -Especially the whites, whose leaders of Planned Parenthood like Margaret Sanger had in mind getting rid of browns, blacks and Catholics.

    What ever happened to e pluribus unum, or the sanctity of human life?

  • ReviewTheFacts

    There needs to be another law, that any man who fathers a child is financially responsible until that child becomes 18 years of age, and it should be MANDATORY, not on a case by case basis.

    Abortion should be between a doctor and his patient, not the legislature, which claims, under Republicans, to be more hands off with regard to regulations, EXCEPT THIS ONE.

  • Nala

    restricting access to birth control is a mans way to attempt to send us back to the days of chattel - self secure men support and appreciate their women - the gop seems to have forgotten the days of sleeping on the couch

  • Baa

    Wow, no kidding. The judge just now realized this. Well, at least the judge did, Trump supporters won't realize it until a bunch of them are pregnant.

  • mrphilbert

    Then they should allow businesses to refuse service to anyone wearing a maga hat for moral convictions.

  • Bree Zee

    Congress would trample themselves to vacate the law if a push was made to block something available only to men. There would be a cry that would pierce the universe. But let it be to women...and it's ok.

  • David Hoffman

    The requirements are substantial burdens on business owners with moral objections, religious objections, and ethical objections? Nope, substantial burdens in federal courts concerning regulations like this concern financial and time burdens, not ethical, religious, or moral burdens. Financially the contraception requirements probably add less than 1.0% to the entire overall cost of providing health care insurance to employees. It is difficult to state that there exists an additional substantial financial burden if the additional financial burden is no more than 1.0%.

  • Ted Mittelstaedt

    I have searched my health insurance policy and nowhere does it provide coverage for rubbers.

    Seriously, covering The Pill and covering rubbers and other birth control like that in an insurance policy is absolutely stupid. These methods can be screwed up by the users quite easily and they are cheap enough that for goodness sake, people can pay for their own!

    By contrast covering vasectomies, tube tying, IUDs, norplant and other forms of birth control that do NOT depend on the user using them properly every day is smart. The cost of covering an unplanned birth is much higher.

    I can't imagine many employers wanting to discourage birth control. Financially it's stupid.

  • working_class_hero

    The real problem is employer-provided insurance. The best solution would be to remove the tax exemption employers receive for the health insurance plans they provide. The exemptions were put in place during WWII to partially circumvent wage and price controls instituted during the war. This tax break became the basis for the broken system of employer-provided healthcare and the wildly inflated healthcare costs which we have today. It would be far better for people to pay for their own healthcare insurance much in the same way you pay for car insurance or home insurance. Then employers would not be involved.

  • Elena

    Then go down to the local health dept and get birth control. When I worked for a local health dept, condoms were free. Depo and BCP were almost free.

  • Morgan

    I continue to wonder how "my" health choices are of any concern to any employer or for that matter any outside interference? What if the employer is against cancer treatment due to moral convictions? Does this mean they can also opt out of that coverage? As "nightnurse" pointed out the cost ofprgenacy is far higher than birth control pills. The other htought may be birth control pills are used for other conditions such as acne, pms, and to control heavy bleeding.

  • thenitenurse

    Years ago it was brought to the attention of the courts that companies would cover erectile dysfunction medication but not birth control. After that most companies covered birth control. What really blows my mind is that companies would rather cover the expensive costs of pregnancy, birth, and children then the few bucks a month to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

  • Sundown

    No Viagra? A guy cannot get a woody. Sad.
    No birth control? A woman and her many children are condemned to poverty for life.

    Don't count on the WH sex offender to watch out for women and children. His kind "plants 'em, doesn't raise 'em".

  • Sundown

    There should be no exceptions for employers wishing to dictate how their employees should live. Birth control is a personal and healthcare matter, not an employment matter. Just like erectile dysfunction is a personal and healthcare matter, not an employment matter.

  • Troyal

    People like to throw the word "free" around as if it really means that no one pays for it.

  • Quiet participant

    Can't get rid of tRump soon enough.