Under President Donald Trump, the federal government repealed the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, enabling employers with strong religious beliefs or “moral convictions” to refuse to provide their employees with contraceptive coverage. But the courts are fighting back, and a federal judge recently blocked the administration’s birth control rule in 13 states and in Washington, D.C. on January 13th.
According to Reuters, California-based U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam granted a request for an injunction to a group of 14 attorneys general suing over the rules, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The decision came just before the new rules were supposed to take effect on January 14th. Becerra and the other attorneys had originally requested a nationwide ruling on the new regulations, but Gilliam’s order only applies to the 14 plaintiffs—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, and Washington, D.C.
The judge has not reached a final decision on the Trump administration rules, but he told Reuters that it would likely be found in violation of the law. After Gilliam issued his injunction, Becerra tweeted that the attorneys general would continue to challenge the ruling.
HuffPost reports that, in court documents, the Department of Justice claimed the new birth control rules would “protect a narrow class of sincere religious and moral objectors from being forced to facilitate practices that conflict with their beliefs.” As HuffPost notes, the Obama administration provided religious exceptions to the ACA’s birth control mandate, but the Trump administration expanded these exemptions to include “moral convictions.”
Gilliam isn’t the first judge to speak out against the administration’s attacks on reproductive rights. In December 2017, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone blocked the same birth control rule—although her ruling was only temporary.
This most recent ruling is a promising sign for reproductive freedom, but the legal battle over birth control is far from over. Access to contraceptives should be a right for all, and we’re crossing our fingers that these new regulations will be stopped for good.