Nigeria-born and Liverpool-educated U.S. Judge Wendy Beetlestone, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, has barred enforcement of a Trump administration rollback of an Obamacare birth-control mandate.
Beetlestone, an Obama appointee, issued an injunction halting the new rule that exempts employers from paying for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs if they have a moral or religious objection to doing so.
The judge said Friday that the state would “likely suffer serious and irreparable harm” if she did not issue the injunction, as thousands of women would lose contraceptive coverage. Beetlestone also stated the administration did not follow ‘proper procedure’ and that the move would force the state to “…shoulder much of the burden of providing contraceptive services to those women who lose it because their health plans opt out of coverage…”
This order follows a suit filed by Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) who tweeted that the ruling was a “critical victory for millions of women and families and for the rule of law.”
Beetlestone was highly critical of the exemption, saying that it could have an “insidious effect” that could include an employer just deciding that women did not belong in the workplace and using the mandate to ‘opt out’ based on that ‘moral’ belief.
“It is difficult to comprehend a rule that does more to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate or that intrudes more into the lives of women,” she added.
The judge effectively decided that neither the Affordable Care Act (ACA) nor the Religious Freedom Restoration Act gives the government legal authority to adopt the exemption. The ACA birth control mandate has been contentious since 2011 when the Obama administration first required ‘health insurance coverage for preventative services to protect women’s health.’
Abortion activist and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and associates originally placed the mandate into Obamacare. In response to the immediate objections from religious employers the administration created “accommodations” which did little more than appear that the objecting groups were not paying for the drugs and/or procedures that violated their religious beliefs and canons.
The legal battle has already risen to the Supreme Court twice. In one case, the Supreme Court found in favor of profit making companies owned by a family that has religious objections to providing contraceptives in their health plans. The Court ordered attorneys for both sides of the religious controversy to work out their differences. Those efforts proved unsuccessful in lower courts.
It is important to note that the Obama administration itself exempted at least 25 million Americans from its own ruling. Huge corporations like Visa, Exxon and Chevron, as well as the military all received various exemption allowances.
Another major issue is the divide across objecting entities themselves. Some groups find the facilitation of any form of birth control completely unacceptable to their faith, while others recognize the need for contraceptive pills and devices but draw the line at medications or procedures that end the life of an unborn child.
Organizations like Hobby-Lobby and faith groups like the Little Sister of the Poor must remain vigilant and can be affected by Beetlestone’s ruling. The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) — an organization dedicated to eliminating abortions — has also been affected by this sweeping nationwide preliminary injunction.
“This is a shameful ruling that seeks to continue the Obama-era assault on conscience rights and religious liberty,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said to Breitbart. “Why should Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor be forced by the government to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans?”
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of the Becket Fund and lead counsel for the Little Sisters of the Poor applauded the Trump administration new rules, which allow conscientious objectors to opt out of the Obama contraceptive and abortion pill mandate for religious or moral grounds.
“This was always a big, unnecessary and divisive culture war fight.” Rienzi said. “Simply put, you don’t need nuns to give out contraceptives. They are widely available.”
In expanding exemptions to the HHS mandate, President Trump made good on another promise.
“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” Trump said during a National Day of Prayer event in May.
“We will never, ever stand for religious discrimination. No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith.”
~ Conservative Zone