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PA Judge Halts Trump Birth Control Rule, Unclear If Admin Will Appeal

Rich Pedroncelli

A federal judge in Pennsylvania has issued a temporary injunction that bars the Trump administration from letting health care providers deny women coverage for contraceptives.

Now, the state Attorney General says the next steps are up to the federal government.

In October, Trump rolled back an Obama Administration policy requiring employers cover birth control prescriptions for free—calling it a “substantial religious burden.”

Carve-outs had already existed for employers that oppose contraceptives on religious grounds. But the administration added new ones, letting companies choose not to cover the prescriptions on moral grounds too, and expanding the rule to apply to any employer.

Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in response, as did California, Massachusetts and Washington.

“With an exemption that was written in a way that it was so big, and so broad that you could drive a truck through that loophole, women would be harmed,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Many women would be unable to afford contraception.”

Shapiro, a Democrat, said the commonwealth was successful in getting an injunction because it proved exactly that—the rollback would do real harm.

“Before the contraceptive mandate was in place, you had a full one third of American women not being able to afford contraception. When the mandate went in place, that number dropped to under four percent,” he said.

He estimates nearly 32,000 women in Pennsylvania would lose access to contraceptives under the Trump administration rules.

It’s up to the administration to either seek a full federal court hearing, appeal in a different court, or let the injunction stand.

Shapiro said the state plans to keep fighting the rule change if necessary.