In October, the Trump Administration made the decision to roll back the contraceptive mandate, a part of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) which, according to a previous report by Live Action News, “required employers to provide all forms of contraception to their employees, including sterilization and potential abortifacients.” The exemptions given for religious organizations were considered insufficient, as many Catholic and other religious groups and religious employers who objected to providing abortifacient (potentially abortion-inducing) contraception were not exempted, but were instead forced to provide the controversial coverage. The decision was a welcome relief to these organizations, some of which are listed below (via The Becket Fund):
… Christian Brothers Services, Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention, Colorado Christian University, Wheaton College, Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, and Eternal Word Television Network.
But yesterday, Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone, an Obama appointee, issued a preliminary injunction against Trump’s rollback of the mandate, which “said any employer who asserts a good-faith religious objection or moral objection to covering contraceptives would be exempt from the mandate,” according to the Washington Times.
The Times quotes Judge Beetlestone as claiming that a “Moral Exemption Rule” such as Trump’s rollback “would allow an employer with a sincerely held moral conviction that women do not have a place in the workplace to simply stop providing contraceptive coverage,” adding that it is “difficult to comprehend a rule that does more to undermine the Contraceptive Mandate or that intrudes more into the lives of women.”
Supporters of the mandate argued that Trump’s rollback could cause “serious medical harm,” to women, “including unintended pregnancies.” However, as Live Action News’ Rebecca Downs previously pointed out, “contraception has not been banned or even restricted” by the mandate’s rollback. Furthermore, Downs notes:
Even with contraception usage, unplanned pregnancies have risen. And the Guttmacher Institute acknowledges that the contraceptive mandate failed to have much of an effect on women’s contraception usage.
Prior to the judge’s ruling, a group of 36 U.S. senators attempted to introduce the “Protect Access to Birth Control Act,” which would have made it so that any religious or moral exemptions to the mandate “shall have no force or effect, and shall be treated as though such rules had never taken effect.”
Despite the rhetoric that “access to birth control” was somehow threatened by the mandate rollback, Live Action News previously noted, “the Trump administration has done little more than allow employers to essentially tell employees that they must pay for their own abortifacient birth control themselves if they choose to purchase it — and yes, they can still choose to purchase it, just as they could before the mandate was ever put into place through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).”
The Becket Fund, on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns, plans to appeal. The Washington Times writes:
“Today’s ruling is wrong on the law and we will be appealing it immediately,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, a religious-liberty firm that represents the sisters. “We are confident that the appeals court or the Supreme Court will overturn this ruling and ensure that the government can do the right thing and continue to protect religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor.”