Pennsylvania District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone issues nationwide injunction against President Trump's policy allowing some employers to'opt out' of mandatory birth control coverage for women; national correspondent William La Jeunesse reports from Los Angeles. Trump administration rules allowing more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control cannot be enforced anywhere in the nation, a federal judge ruled Monday. In a two-page decision, U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia cited the potential harm to states should the rules be enforced. Numerous citizens could lose contraceptive coverage, Beetlestone wrote, resulting in the increased use of state-funded contraceptive services, as well as increased costs associated with unintended pregnancies. The rules, scheduled to take effect Monday, would change an ObamaCare mandate by allowing more employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing no-cost contraceptive coverage to women by claiming religious objections.
Contraception policy may not be the biggest target of the anti-science right wing -- climate change and evolution probably rank higher -- but it's the field in which scientific disinformation has the most immediate consequences for public health. So it's especially disturbing that President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price have stocked the corridors of health policy with purveyors of conclusively debunked claptrap about contraception, abortion, pregnancy and women's reproductive health generally. What makes them especially dangerous, says the author, bioethicist R. Alta Charo of the University of Wisconsin law school, is that the "alternative facts" they're purveying could influence an entire generation's attitude toward contraception, for the worse. Among their themes is that condoms don't protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases and that abortions and contraceptives cause breast cancer, miscarriages and infertility. None of these assertions is true.
The Trump administration recently announced a rule that will gut the Obamacare mandate that required most employers cover the cost of birth control in their insurance plans. But there's a problem with Trump's plan to make it harder for women to get birth control: Many states saw it coming. The contraception mandate, enacted in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act, was the first federal guarantee of contraceptive coverage for the millions of women who get insurance through their employers. The mandate also included a requirement that insurers cover FDA-approved contraceptives without cost-sharing, meaning women get it for free.
University of Notre Dame students filed a federal lawsuit against their school and the Trump administration on Tuesday in response to the university's decision earlier this year to end insurance coverage of some contraceptives for its students and employees. The suit is the latest in a multi-year back-and-forth between Notre Dame, the federal government, and reproductive-rights advocates. The lawsuit asks the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to prevent Notre Dame from dropping coverage of some forms of birth control, including the morning-after pill and certain intrauterine devices, and requiring out-of-pocket payment for others. It argues that the university's policy violates the Affordable Care Act's requirement that health plans cover the entire cost of a range of preventive health services, including all Food and Drug Administration-approved forms of contraception, and that the school's policy violates the plaintiffs' Constitutional rights. Several women's rights and freedom-from-religion advocacy groups brought the lawsuit on behalf of Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a student organization, and others insured under Notre Dame's health plans.
Last week, Donald Trump announced that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), an orthopedic surgeon known for fierce criticism of the Affordable Care Act, is his choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the roughly $80 billion federal agency whose 80,000 employees are tasked with administering numerous programs relating to Americans' health, including the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate--which requires employer-sponsored health insurance to cover birth control without a copay. Reproductive rights advocates expressed serious concern over his appointment, in part because during his two decades in politics, first in the Georgia senate and then as a six-term congressman, Price has been a staunch opponent of abortion. In 2011, he voted for a ban on the use of training grants to teach medical students how to perform abortions, and he has twice voted for a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks. "Tom Price is someone who has made clear throughout his career that he does not trust women to make our own decisions about our health care," said Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement following Trump's nomination of Price. Pro-choice advocates are also worried about Price's long history of opposing contraceptive access.