Christian groups and businesses once again may be forced to pay for birth control, including forms that may cause abortions, after a federal judge ruled against the Trump administration Friday.
In October, President Donald Trump’s administration provided relief from the Obamacare birth control mandate by granting wider exceptions to religious groups.
The new rules provided relief to groups like the nuns of Little Sisters of the Poor and the religious owners of Hobby Lobby, which were forced to challenge the mandate to the U.S. Supreme Court or face crippling fines.
On Friday, a challenge by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro succeeded when federal Judge Wendy Beetlestone blocked the Trump administration from enforcing the rule, according to the AP.
“The Commonwealth’s concern is that absent available cost-effective contraception, women will either forego contraception entirely or choose cheaper but less effective methods—individual choices which will result in an increase in untended pregnancies,” Beetlestone wrote. “That, in turn, will inflict economic harm on the Commonwealth because unintended pregnancies are more likely to impose additional costs on Pennsylvania’s State-funded health programs.”
Here’s more from the Washington Free Beacon:
Shapiro’s victory came after arguments in front of Judge Wendy Bettlestone Thursday, where the A.G. contended that the rollback would harm Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million women. Dr. Cynthia Chuang, of Penn State University, testified before Bettlestone that the rollback would cause “serious medical harm,” including unintended pregnancies, Courthouse News reports.
The government disagreed with this argument when, in October, Trump ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to allow for fairly broad-based religious and moral exemptions to the mandate.
… The administration expected in October that only a few organizations — as few as 200 — will take advantage of the expanded exceptions. A senior administration official said then that it was expected that 99.9 percent of women will be unimpacted by this new rule.
One leading pro-life group decried the nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the Trump Administration’s interim final rule protecting employers who have religious or moral objections to providing abortion-inducing drugs and devices to their employees. The class of conscientious objectors includes employers like the Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as groups like Susan B. Anthony List.
“This is a shameful ruling that seeks to continue the Obama-era assault on conscience rights and religious liberty,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Why should Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor be forced by the government to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans? Moreover, moral objectors like my own pro-life organization, SBA List, should not have to pay for life-ending drugs that are antithetical to our mission. There is absolutely no ‘compelling state interest’ in forcing pro-life employers to violate their consciences to provide abortion-inducing drugs. We thank President Trump for standing up for conscience rights and religious liberty and are confident the Administration will fight this ridiculous ruling.”
Shapiro described the ruling as a “critical victory for millions of women.”
However, earlier this fall, even Shapiro admitted that the HHS mandate under pro-abortion President Barack Obama was “extremely narrow.” It was so narrow that even a group of nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, had to fight the whole way to the U.S. Supreme Court for relief.
Other states that are suing Trump include California, Massachusetts and Washington, according to the AP.
The Trump administration says the new rules are motivated by “our desire to bring to a close the more than five years of litigation” over the pro-abortion mandate. These include cases by the Little Sister of the Poor, Hobby Lobby and countless other religious organizations and businesses.
The new rules argue that the Affordable Care Act does not mandate coverage of birth control, which could mean hundreds of thousands of women would no longer have access to the contraceptive without a copay.
According to TownHall, the new rules provide significantly expanded religious exemptions that the Obama administration refused to offer.
The report continued:
One of the new rules, according to the Times, provides an exemption to employers or insurers that object to covering birth control “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs,” while another rule gives an exemption to employers with “moral convictions” against covering birth control.
The new rules state that since all religious objections to the contraceptive coverage mandate cannot be satisfied, “it is necessary and appropriate to provide the expanded exemptions.”
The Trump administration also notes that there are other means of acquiring birth control.
“The government,” it says, “already engages in dozens of programs that subsidize contraception for the low-income women” who are most at risk of unplanned pregnancies.
Pro-life advocates applauded the new rules when they were first proposed in May.
“At long last, the United States government has acknowledged that people can get contraceptives without forcing nuns to provide them,” Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty told USA Today at the time. “That is sensible, fair, and in keeping with the president’s promise to the Little Sisters and other religious groups serving the poor.”