Birth Control Coverage: Update

On October 6th, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services issued two rules rolling back a federal requirement that employers must include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. The rules offer an exemption to any employer that objects to covering contraception services on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions. Approximately 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate (under the Affordable Care Act).

On Wednesday October 11th, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania sued the Trump administration arguing that the new rules violate the Fifth Amendment because they pertain to women and not men and the First Amendment, by putting employers’ religious beliefs over the constitutional rights of women On Friday December 15th, Judge Wendy Beetlestone from the U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the administration from enforcing the two new rules modifying access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act. In the 44 page opinion, the court concluded that the “Commonwealth is likely to suffer serious and irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction” and that the “interest at stake in this litigation are great.”

In a similar manner, on October 6th, the State of California sued the Trump administration arguing that the public was not given adequate time to comment on the policy change and that the policy preferences religious over secular beliefs. On Thursday, December 21st Federal Judge Haywoood Gilliam Jr. also issued a preliminary injunction in the District Court for the Northern District of California. The Court noted that “the plaintiffs face potentially dire public health and fiscal consequences as a result of a process as to which they had no input.”