Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Friday fired the latest legal salvo against the Trump administration’s efforts to limit the Affordable Care Act’s birth control coverage mandate.
Shapiro filed an amended lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia challenging the administration’s “final” federal rules that would allow more employers, including colleges, universities, and health insurance companies, to deny coverage by claiming moral objections. The lawsuit was joined by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
The Trump administration’s final rules, issued last month, are similar to “interim” rules released last year. Shapiro won a preliminary nationwide injunction against those interim rules last December from U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone. Her ruling is now under appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
If the final rules were to take effect next month as scheduled, they would supersede the 2017 interim rules, and the preliminary injunction would be moot.
“Families rely on the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee to afford care," Shapiro said in a press release. “Congress hasn’t changed the law, and the president can’t simply ignore it with an illegal rule.”
Meanwhile, a federal appeals panel on Thursday upheld a decision blocking the interim rules, but said the ruling would only apply in the five states that filed the lawsuit last year: California, Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Virginia. The appeals panel concluded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made the policy changes without the required notice and public comment.
Shapiro’s complaint claims, among other things, that the new rules violate the separation of church and state, and allow employers to discriminate on the basis of sex.
The Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate requires employer-sponsored health insurance plans to cover all forms of birth control without co-payment. The Obama administration allowed exemptions for religious organizations, but conservative and religious groups have argued those did not go far enough.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has backed the mandate, saying “all women should have unhindered and affordable access” to birth control.