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Trump Asks SCOTUS to Review Obamacare Birth Control Rules

Oct. 8, 2019, 1:08 PM

The Trump administration wants the U.S. Supreme Court to review an order blocking rules that allow religious and moral objectors to refuse to provide insurance that pays for employees’ birth control.

The Affordable Care Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act authorized three executive agencies to issue rules creating religious and moral exemptions to an Obamacare rule requiring employer health plans to fully cover contraceptive care, President Donald Trump said in an Oct. 7 petition for review.

The administration is asking the court to overturn a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which affirmed a lower court’s nationwide injunction against the opt-out rules. The injunction will remain in effect while the rule’s validity is being litigated.

The Third Circuit said the ACA didn’t give the agencies authority to exempt some employers from providing insurance coverage for preventive services like contraceptive care. The president disagreed, saying this conclusion “imperils not only the exemptions in these rules, but the longstanding exemption for churches and (in practical effect) self-insured church plans.”

Rules implementing the ACA require large employers to provide employee health plans. The plans must cover certain essential services, including contraceptive care. Churches are exempt from the contraceptive mandate, but religious-based organizations and groups objecting to the requirement on moral grounds aren’t.

These nonexempt groups filed multiple court cases saying the contraceptive coverage mandate violated their religious and moral rights. The Supreme Court eventually heard oral argument on the issue, but didn’t decide it. Instead, the high court sent the cases back to the federal appeals court with instructions for the government and the groups to work out a compromise.

The Trump administration adopted the two opt-out rules to resolve the situation. Over 20 states sued the government in federal courts to overturn the rules.

Parallel cases are pending in California and Massachusetts. The Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in the California case June 6. It previously upheld an order blocking enforcement of a non-final version of the rule.

The U.S. Department of Justice represents the government.

The case is Trump v. Pennsylvania, U.S., No. 19-454, docketed 10/7/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at mpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com