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Trump Appeals California Judge's Curb on Birth Control Rules

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FILE PHOTO: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra spoke to journalists in Sacramento in May of 2017. Becerra sued the Trump administration in October challenging the new rules and on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, he said that the changes unjustly target women.  (Bert Johnson/KQED)

The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing a California judge's decision to temporarily block new Trump administration rules allowing more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women.

Lawyers filed the notice of appeal to the 9th District Court of Appeals on Friday, nearly two months after Oakland-based U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam blocked the changes to President Barack Obama's health care law.

The Obama appointee said the Trump administration failed to follow notice and public comment requirements before implementing the changes. A federal judge in Philadelphia cited similar reasons in issuing her nationwide injunction, also in December.

The Affordable Care Act required most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, though it included exemptions for religious organizations. The new policy would allow more categories of employers to opt out of providing contraception by claiming religious objections.

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Trump administration in October challenging the new rules, saying the policy discriminated against women.

His lawsuit was joined by attorneys general in Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

California argued that the change could result in millions of women losing free birth control services and lead to unintended pregnancies that would tax the state's health care and other social programs.

A lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, Ethan Davis, said at a hearing that it was not clear that any women would lose no-cost contraception coverage.

But in issuing the injunction, Gilliam said the rule changes transform contraceptive coverage from an entitlement to a benefit subject to employer discretion.

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