Attorney General Josh Shapiro Files Amended Lawsuit, Continues Fight to Protect Contraceptive Rights of Women

December 14, 2018 | Topic: Rights

Attorney General Josh Shapiro Joins With NJ Attorney General Grewal to Oppose Final Contraceptive Care Exemption Rules Issued By Trump Administration

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced today that his office filed an amended lawsuit against President Donald Trump and the Trump Administration challenging the federal government’s final religious and moral exemption rules limiting mandated contraceptive care.   Attorney General Shapiro also announced that New Jersey and its Attorney General Gurbir Grewal joined Pennsylvania in filing the amended lawsuit.  The government’s final rules are set to take effect in January 2019.

Almost exactly one year ago, on December 15, 2017, Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit to challenge the interim version of these exemptions 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. That injunction remains in effect.  However, the interim rules will no longer be applicable when the final rules go into effect in January, and so through today’s amended filing, Attorneys General Shapiro and Grewal are seeking to block the Trump Administration’s final rules from going into effect.

“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 to afford care; before the ACA families spent thousands of dollars in co-pays. Congress hasn’t changed the law, and the President can’t simply ignore it with an illegal rule.”

Under current law, necessary religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate exist, but are extremely narrow. The new, final rules issued by the Trump Administration would allow virtually any employer to refuse to provide no-cost contraceptive coverage to its employees, causing them to pay more for health care.  The final rules allow more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing contraception coverage to women by claiming religious objections. They also allow any company that is not publicly traded to deny coverage on moral grounds.

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

“The Trump Administration knows that these final rules will have a detrimental impact on more than twice the number of women as their first proposed rules, yet they’re pushing forward and implementing them anyway,” continued Shapiro. “That is unconscionable and against the law. I will continue to go to court to protect women’s healthcare, and I welcome New Jersey Attorney General Grewal to this fight.”

“The Murphy Administration is committed to defending the promise of affordable health care for all New Jersey residents,” said Attorney General Grewal. “That is why we are challenging yet another unlawful attempt by the current administration to undermine our residents’ rights to essential preventative care.  Attorney General Shapiro of Pennsylvania has been a national leader in the legal fight to protect women’s health coverage, and today I am proud to join him in that battle.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) generally requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to cover preventative care and screenings for women. These preventative services include all contraceptive methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which must be covered without any cost sharing (such as copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles).  The Trump Administration is inviting employers to avoid these requirements by asserting religious or moral objections to cover contraceptive services.  The Administration’s proposed rules significantly expand the exemption previously recognized for religious employers and organizations.

As a result of the ACA, more than 55 million women in the United States — including 2.5 million Pennsylvania women and families — have access to birth control with no out-of-pocket costs.

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