A federal judge in Oakland has granted a preliminary injunction blocking a new Trump administration regulation that would let more employers opt out of birth control coverage for their workers. The policy would have gone into effect starting Monday.
On Friday, California, 12 other states, and the District of Colombia spoke in federal court in Oakland, asking Judge Haywood Gilliam to temporarily block rules that would let a wide variety of businesses and nonprofit organizations decline to offer free contraceptive coverage guaranteed to their workers under the Affordable Care Act.
Previously, only religious organizations and private for-profit businesses citing specific religious grounds were exempt from offering contraception coverage to employees.
The new rules would expand the exemption to a larger group of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing no-cost contraceptive coverage to women by claiming religious objections. Some private employers -- but not publicly traded companies -- could also opt out by citing moral objections.
The states said the rules discriminates against women and would be a barrier to care. Judge Gilliam agreed, saying equities and public interest tipped in their favor.
"Plaintiffs face substantial costs stemming from a higher rate of unintended pregnancies that are likely to occur if women lose access to the seamless, no-cost contraceptive coverage afforded under the rules now in place," Judge Gilliam said in his ruling.
He added that upholding the new rule could have dire public health and fiscal consequences.
"The law couldn't be clearer -- employers have no business interfering in women's healthcare decisions," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "Today's ruling stops another attempt by the Trump administration to trample on women's access to basic reproductive care."
Though the plaintiff states sought a nationwide injunction, Gilliam's decision will only apply to the 14 jurisdictions.
Last year, Becerra sought and was granted an injunction to an interim version of the contraceptive mandate. This was appealed, but ultimately upheld in December.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 23.