- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2017

Another federal judge — this one in California — has blocked President Trump’s decision to roll back Obama-era rules that require employers to provide free birth control as part of their health plans.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam, presiding in Oakland, issued a preliminary injunction against Mr. Trump’s interim final rule, which said any employer who asserts a good-faith religious objection to covering contraceptives would be exempt from the mandate.

Judge Gilliam, an Obama appointee, said the administration appeared to bypass the proper notice-and-comment period before going ahead with the changes.

“Plaintiffs are not only likely to suffer irreparable procedural harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction, they already have done so,” he wrote.

The judge follows U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone, an Obama appointee who made a similar ruling in Philadelphia last week.

Critics of President Obama’s rules had vowed to appeal that ruling, saying the judge got it wrong.

An outgrowth of Obamacare, the “contraceptive mandate” required employers to insure an array of birth control drugs and devices as part of their health plans or else pay crippling fines.

While grandfathered plans and houses of worship were fully exempt, Mr. Obama required devout business owners and religious nonprofits to formally cite their objections, so an insurer or third party could step in and provide the drugs and services.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a charity of nuns who care for the elderly, and other religious nonprofits sued all the way to the Supreme Court, saying they wanted to be fully carved out of providing contraceptives they consider sinful, though deadlocked justices told both sides to figure out a compromise.

The Trump administration sympathized with the sisters and other nonprofits and issued his sweeping exemption in October.

The change sparked new court battles, this time from civil liberties groups, women’s rights advocates and Democratic attorneys general in California and Pennsylvania.

The AGs say the new rules violate constitutional prohibitions on imposing religious beliefs or depriving people, in this case female employees, of equal protection under the law.

They also said the rules also violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because they were issued without adequate input from the public.

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