Trump Administration Rule Allowing Employers To Deny Free Birth Control Blocked By Federal Judge

A federal judge in California on Sunday blocked new Trump administration rules that would have allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with free birth control.

The preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam applies to California, 12 other states and Washington, D.C. Gilliam rejected the plaintiffs' request to issue a nationwide injunction, the Associated Press reported.

The case stems from the Trump administration's modification of a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that birth control treatment be covered at no additional cost to employees. The law provides an exception for religious organizations, but the Trump administration widened those exemptions in October 2017 and added "moral convictions" as legitimate grounds to opt out of covering birth control services.

California and other states sued the administration over the changes, arguing that they violated the Affordable Care Act's anti-discrimination provisions. The states further contended that the new rules would force women to rely on state-funded programs and lead to an increase in unintended pregnancies.

"The law couldn't be more clear — employers have no business interfering in women's healthcare decisions," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement Sunday. "Today's court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump Administration to trample on women's access to basic reproductive care. It's 2019, yet the Trump Administration is still trying to roll back women's rights. Our coalition will continue to fight to ensure women have access to the reproductive healthcare they are guaranteed under the law."

The new policy on birth control coverage is set to take effect Jan. 14, after the Trump administration finalized the interim rules in November. Because Gilliam's injunction is limited to states that are party to the lawsuit, the regulations will still apply to employers in 37 other states.

Prior to his limited order on Sunday, Gilliam had already granted a nationwide injunction against the interim birth control rules. The Ninth Circuit upheld the first injunction in December, but limited it to the five states that were pursuing the case at the time. The original plaintiffs then added eight more states and the District of Columbia to the lawsuit and asked for a second nationwide order.

In addition to California and Washington, D.C., the injunction applies to Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.