Second Federal Judge Blocks Trump's Rollback On Contraceptive Coverage

The ruling criticizes changes that would transform birth control coverage from an entitlement to a "gratuitous benefit."

A second federal judge has blocked President Donald Trump’s new rules allowing companies to drop insurance coverage for contraceptives on moral or religious grounds.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of Northern California issued an immediate nationwide preliminary injunction against Trump’s changes on Thursday. He ruled that the five states suing to block the rules have a strong likelihood of proving that the Trump administration illegally ignored procedure on changing the regulations, causing women imminent harm. 

It was yet another blow to the administration’s efforts to squeeze off access to contraceptives for women. A federal judge in Pennsylvania last week also issued a nationwide injunction temporarily blocking the changes in a stinging ruling supporting a lawsuit brought by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro. 

Gilliam wrote in his 29-page ruling that the new rules “transform contraceptive coverage from a legal entitlement to an essentially gratuitous benefit wholly subject to their employer’s discretion.”

The Affordable Care Act had required employers providing health insurance to cover birth control at no extra cost. But the Trump administration in October issued new rules allowing almost any employer to opt out of all contraceptive coverage because of religious of moral objections.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra praised the decision. “The law couldn’t be more clear: a woman, not her boss and certainly not a politician, should decide what’s best for her own health care,” he said in a statement. “This court ruling serves as yet another reminder to the Trump administration: the rule of law applies to everyone, no matter who you are or how high your rank. In concert with last week’s injunction in Pennsylvania, [the] ruling amounts to a one-two punch against the Trump administration’s unlawful overreach.”

The California case was joined by Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

The Department of Justice is considering its next move.