Federal courts have repeatedly blocked the Trump administration's harmful rules that would allow employers and universities to cite religious or moral objections as a basis for denying employees and students health insurance that includes birth control coverage.
But that hasn't deterred President Donald Trump: In October, almost two years to the day after the rules were first announced, his administration filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to review the case and overturn a July ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that continues to block the rules from going into effect nationwide.
In the 3rd Circuit's unanimous opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Patty Shwartz wrote that the court's injunction was warranted and that the rules were likely unlawful because, among other reasons, the administration erred in claiming justification under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
"RFRA does not demand the Religious Exemption" the new birth control rules created, Shwartz stated bluntly.
Shwartz noted that a prior Obama-era accommodation for employers with religious objections to providing birth control coverage honored the religious-freedom rights of employers while, at the same time, protecting employees' access to vital health care.
Trump's birth control rules "would impose an undue burden on nonbeneficiaries --the female employees who will lose coverage for contraceptive care," Shwartz wrote. "The [administration] downplayed this burden on women, contradicting Congress's mandate that women be provided contraceptive coverage."
The Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress in 2010, included the Women's Health Amendment that established the affordable, preventive health care that must be included in most employer-provided health insurance plans. The needed preventive care included access to birth control with no co-pays because health experts recognize that contraception is critical to women's health and equality. Birth control allows women to make their own choices about their bodies, manage their medical conditions, participate in the workforce, pursue education and plan whether and when to have a family.
President Barack Obama's administration accommodated religiously affiliated nonprofits by allowing them to sign an opt-out form noting their religious objections to providing birth control. The government then worked directly with a third-party insurer or administrator to ensure employees continued to have...