9th Circuit partially strikes down HHS mandate protections
by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 12/14/18, 11:46 am
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday partially blocked the enforcement of temporary rules that brought relief to businesses and organizations with religious objections to providing abortifacients and contraceptives to their employees. In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services issued temporary rules to exempt any employer with a religious or moral objection from the Obamacare mandate requiring employee healthcare plans to include coverage of birth control. Fives states—California, Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Virginia—sued to block the temporary rule, claiming the exemptions would cost them money to make up for contraceptive and abortifacient coverage that objecting employers wouldn’t provide. A U.S. district court ruled in the states’ favor in December 2017, blocking implementation of the interim rules. March for Life and Little Sisters of the Poor, which has fought the mandate for years, sued, asking the 9th Circuit to overturn the decision.
“HHS rightly freed organizations like March for Life and the Little Sisters of the Poor from the abortion-pill mandate,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Gregory S. Baylor said. “The 9th Circuit should have lifted that order and affirmed these protections.”
Thursday’s ruling does not affect the final version of the rules passed by the Trump administration last month. The finalized rules will go into effect Jan. 14, but California and other states have made it clear they plan to challenge those protections, as well. In the meantime, the interim rules cannot be enforced in the five states that filed the lawsuit.
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