- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2019

A federal judge on Sunday partially blocked President Trump’s push to let a wide range of employers ignore an Obamacare-related rule requiring them to insure birth control in their health plans.

The preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam applies to 13 states, plus D.C.

Judge Gilliam, presiding in California, noted strong arguments on both sides of the debate over former President Barack Obama’s mandate, which devout business owners and religiously affiliated nonprofit employers have blasted as a violation of their faith or moral beliefs.

However, the judge was sympathetic to women who work for objecting employees and might lose access to affordable contraceptives.

The blue-state plaintiffs “face potentially dire public health and fiscal consequences from the implementation of the final rules,” the judge wrote.

Judge Gilliam, an appointee of President Barack Obama, enjoined the new rules in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state and the nation’s capital.

Federal courts blocked Mr. Trump’s attempts to get around the mandate earlier this year, saying they were hastily written, so the administration finalized new rules in November.

The rules, set to take effect Monday, allow closely held businesses and faith-based charities and universities employers to refuse to insure forms of birth control they find objectionable by claiming “sincerely held religious beliefs” or a moral objection.

Objectors would not be required to fill out on opt-form — a requirement that Mr. Obama imposed, leading to dragged-out litigation that reached a deadlocked Supreme Court.

Today the court battles are coming from the other side, with civil-liberties groups saying Mr. Trump has made it too easy for employers to deny coverage.

The Health and Human Services Department disagrees, saying it expects no more than 200 employers to come forward a claim the latest version of the exemption, which only requires firms to notify their workers if their health policy suddenly drops contraceptive coverage.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading the court challenge, says the damage will be far more extensive.

“It’s 2019, yet the Trump Administration is still trying to roll back women’s rights,” he tweeted. “Our coalition will continue to fight to ensure women have access to the reproductive healthcare they are guaranteed under the law!”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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