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Appeals court upholds injunction requiring contraception coverage

A federal appeals court in San Francisco by a 2-1 vote Thursday upheld a preliminary injunction requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage in group health plans.

A requirement for birth control coverage in health insurance without additional co-payments was part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare.

But last year, the administration of President Donald Trump issued rules exempting employers and insurance companies that had religious or moral objections to birth control.

California and four other states sued to challenge the exemption and in December 2017, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam issued a preliminary injunction blocking the exemption until a full trial is held on the states’ lawsuit.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel majority today upheld the injunction, agreeing with Gilliam’s conclusion that the rules were issued without the required public notice and opportunity for the public to comment.

But the panel narrowed the injunction, saying that it should apply only to the five states that sued rather than nationwide. In addition to California, the states are Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

The states claimed the rules would hurt them economically because women denied the contraceptive coverage would turn to state-paid programs.

Judge J. Clifford Wallace said the five states had “extensively detailed” the harm they would incur, thereby justifying the injunction, but there was no evidence about the impact on other states.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said:

“Congress made clear that all women and their families have the right to access cost-free birth control under the Affordable Care Act.

Gregory Baylor, a lawyer who argued against the injunction, stated:

“The government shouldn’t be forcing anyone to provide life- destroying drugs and devices.”

Baylor represented March for Life, an organization opposed to abortion and abortion-inducing drugs. The group was granted permission to become an official party in the case.

Another nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the new rules was issued by a federal judge in Philadelphia last year in a separate lawsuit filed by the state of Pennsylvania. That ruling is now being appealed to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

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