SAN FRANCISCO ― California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) announced Friday he has filed a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s decision to end insurance coverage requirements for birth control.
Becerra’s suit comes hours after Trump’s administration announced a new rule that will allow all employers to opt out of including birth control in their health care plans, rolling back an Obama-era mandate that guaranteed 62 million women access to contraception at no cost.
“Donald Trump wants businesses and corporations to control family planning decisions rather than a woman in consultation with her doctor. These anti-women’s health regulations prove once again that the Trump Administration is willing to trample on people’s rights,” Becerra said in a statement Friday. “The California Department of Justice will fight to protect every woman’s right to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare. We’ll see the Trump Administration in court.”
In announcing the decision, the administration argued the coverage requirement created a “substantial burden” on employers’ free exercise of religion as protected by the U.S. Constitution. The new regulations will allow any employer to deny coverage for contraception on religious and/or moral grounds.
This, Becerra argues, violates the Constitution as well as federal law.
The complaint makes the case that the rollback violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by allowing employers to use their religious beliefs to deny women a health care benefit.
Becerra also argues the regulations violate the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The new rules “specifically target and harm women,” reads the complaint. “The [Affordable Care Act] specifically contemplated disparities in health care costs between women and men, and specifically sought to rectify this problem by giving women cost-free preventative services. The new [regulations] undermine this action and is discriminatory to women.”
The suit also contends the rules violate the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which requires a notice and comment period for major policy changes, and that the new rules will harm the state of California by burdening it with additional costs to fill coverage gaps.
“Millions of women in California may be left without access to contraceptives and counseling and the State will be shouldering that additional fiscal and administrative burden as women seek access for this coverage through state-funded programs,” reads the complaint.
Becerra filed the suit Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a similar suit Friday, also arguing the rules violate the Establishment and Equal Protection clauses.
“The Trump administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’s religious beliefs,” ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri said in a statement.
Women’s health groups have also pushed back on the move, noting the low unintended pregnancy rates, as well as low abortion rates, since the birth control coverage mandate went into place.