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Judge blocks Trump administration from rolling back birth control mandate


A demonstration outside the Supreme Court during a 2014 hearing on the contraceptive mandate The Washington Post / Getty Images
Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

A federal court has temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s decision to roll back the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, Pennsylvania’s attorney general announced on Friday.

The decision would stop the new regulations from taking effect nationwide, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

The Trump administration issued regulations rolling back the mandate in October. As Vox explained at the time:

New regulations released Friday significantly broaden the types of companies and organizations that can request an exemption from that rule. This could lead to many American women who currently receive no-cost contraception having to pay out of pocket for their medication.

The new rules take effect immediately. And they allow large, publicly traded companies to seek an exemption from the birth control requirement if they have a religious or moral objection to providing such coverage. The Obama administration barred these large businesses from such exemptions.

The problem appears to be that the rules took effectively immediately. Some legal experts, like the University of Michigan’s Nicholas Bagley, argued when the regulations were issued that the Trump administration had opened itself up to a legal challenge by skipping the usual public comment period for federal rulemaking.

The ruling from US district court judge Wendy Beetlestone cited the likelihood that opponents of the regulations would prevail on issues relating to the Administrative Procedure Act — which sets guidelines for issuing federal regulations — in ordering the injunction to block the changes.

The Trump administration is blocked under the order from loosening the exemptions from the mandate until the full case is heard.

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