Second judge halts new contraceptive coverage rules

Another federal judge has halted new regulations from the Trump administration that erode the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate. 

In an order issued this week, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. granted a request for a preliminary injunction that effectively prevents the Department of Health and Human Services from implementing the rules. California, New York, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia filed the suit.

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The rules, which the Trump administration issued in October, allow a wider range of employers to opt out of the ACA’s requirement that they provide no-cost contraception to their employees. Proponents say the new rules offer freedom from the current law’s provisions that infringe on religious liberty, but critics argue they will hurt women’s healthcare.

Gilliam was the second judge to temporarily block the new rules. Last week, U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Wendy Beetlestone granted Pennsylvania’s request for a preliminary injunction. 

“In concert with last week's injunction in Pennsylvania, today's ruling amounts to a one-two punch against the Trump administration's unlawful overreach,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Having said this, our work will not end until women are guaranteed the healthcare they deserve.”

Gilliam wrote in his order that states are likely to succeed in their claim that the Trump administration didn’t provide enough advance notice—or adequately allow the public to comment—before implementing the rules. In addition, “they are likely to suffer irreparable harm as a result of this procedural violation,” he wrote. 

However, a spokeswoman from the Department of Justice told Reuters that the agency disagrees with the ruling.

“This administration is committed to defending the religious liberty of all Americans and we look forward to doing so in court,” she said.