PA sues Trump administration over birth control mandate rollback

Attorney General Josh Shapiro will announce the suit today in Philly.

Left: Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro. Right: President Donald Trump.

Left: Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro. Right: President Donald Trump.

Left: @PAattorneygeneral on Twitter. Right: Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced plans to sue the Trump administration over a new rule that eases birth control coverage mandates for employers and insurers under the Affordable Care Act.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it is rolling back federal rules put in place under the Affordable Care Act that require employers include contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration in employee health insurance coverage, unless the employer qualifies for a special exemption.

The new rule expands the rights of employers — from nonprofits to small businesses to publicly-traded companies — to deny that coverage based on either sincerely held religious beliefs or “moral convictions.”

Shapiro, a first-term Democrat who took office in January and has filed more than a dozen legal actions against the administration, will formally announce his administration’s lawsuit at 4 p.m. alongside women’s health advocates at the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood location near 11th and Locust streets. His office is filing the suit in federal court in Philadelphia.

While a number of the lawsuits Shapiro’s already filed against the administration were part of multi-state efforts coordinated by a coalition of Democrat attorneys general, this particular lawsuit is not connected to a broader, multi-state effort. However, attorneys general in Massachusetts, California and Washington have already announced their own lawsuits meant to block the move, along with national groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.

Since the administration announced the new regulations last week, women’s rights advocates have derided the move, saying the provision put in place under the Affordable Care Act allowed more than 55 million women to obtain no-copay birth control through their employer health insurance.

Shapiro’s office said 2.5 million Pennsylvania women could have to pay more for birth control under the new regulation.

Though the Department of Health and Human Services claims the exemptions “may impact only about 200 entities, the number that filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections,” hundreds of thousands of women could theoretically lose their birth control coverage.

The complaint argues the Trump administration’s “hasty, overnight implementation” last week violates the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal statute that governs how administrations implement new rules. Shapiro’s office also argues the administration’s move violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment — which states the government must not take any action “respecting an establishment of religion” — and the equal protection clause.

Proponents of the Trump administration’s new directive say the Obama administration, when it enacted the Affordable Care Act, required employers provide coverage of all FDA-approved birth control methods, including ones some say could have abortive effects (though advocates for reproductive rights say that’s not the case).

The National Women’s Law Center estimates that the contraceptive mandate saved women across the country a total of $1.4 billion in birth control-related costs in 2013 alone.

On Monday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat up for reelection in 2018, called on the state legislature to enact a state birth control coverage mandate in response to the Trump administration’s announcement.

Here’s a copy of the complaint:

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