21 AGs File Legal Action Supporting Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s Lawsuit Protecting Contraceptive Rights of Women

January 8, 2019 | Topic: Rights

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced today that a coalition of 21 state Attorneys General have filed an amicus brief in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in support of a lawsuit brought by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey asking the courts to stop the Trump Administration from rolling back the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide contraceptive care coverage in their health insurance plans. 

The Attorneys General brief asks the court to issue a nationwide preliminary injunction stopping the federal government from implementing new regulations that authorize employers with a religious or moral objection to block their employees and their employees’ dependents from receiving insurance coverage for contraceptive care and services.  The new federal regulations are otherwise set to take effect this month.

“Despite previous court orders barring the Trump Administration from implementing rules which threaten the health care and independence of women in Pennsylvania and across America, the federal government continues to seek ways to enact these harsh measures,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Women need contraception for their health because contraception is medicine, pure and simple. Families rely on the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of affordable healthcare, and my fellow Attorneys General recognize the impact this has on family budgets in their states and across the country. I welcome my colleagues’ support. Congress hasn’t changed the law, and the President can’t simply ignore it with an illegal rule.”

In December 2017, Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit to challenge the interim version of the regulations and won a nationwide injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. That decision stopped the Trump Administration’s interim rules from undermining the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide their employees with contraceptive coverage. 

Last month, Attorney General Shapiro announced that he had filed an amended complaint against Trump Administration seeking to block the federal government’s final religious and moral exemption rules from taking effect, and that New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal had joined Pennsylvania in filing the amended complaint.

Federal government estimates for the number of American women who will be immediately impacted by the final rules are more than double the number which were potentially impacted by the interim rules. Government estimates do not account for women who will be entering the workforce in the future.

Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, most employers who provide health insurance coverage to their employees have been required to include coverage for contraception, at no cost to the employee. As a result of the ACA, more than 55 million women in the United States, including 2.5 million in Pennsylvania and their families, have access to a range of FDA-approved methods of contraceptive care, including the longest-acting and most effective ones, with no out-of-pocket costs.

In the amicus brief, the state attorneys general argue that the new regulations threaten the health, well-being, and economic stability of hundreds of thousands of their residents by depriving them of contraception coverage. As a result, the attorneys general contend their states will be forced to spend millions of dollars to provide their residents with state-funded replacement contraceptive care and services. The states further argue that the expanded religious exemption included in the final regulations will cause women in every single state to lose contraception coverage and therefore agree that the court should impose a nationwide preliminary injunction.

“Access to contraception advances educational opportunity, workplace equality, and financial empowerment for women; improves the health of women and children; and reduces healthcare-related costs for individuals, families, and States,” the state attorneys general write in the brief.

Joining Massachusetts Attorney General Healey in filing the amicus brief in support of Attorney General Shapiro’s lawsuit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.  

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