U.S. judge questions Trump administration
on birth control rules
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[December 13, 2017]
By Dan Levine
OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) - A U.S. judge
questioned on Tuesday whether the federal government properly formulated
new rules that undermine an Obamacare requirement for employers to
provide insurance that covers women's birth control.
New rules from the Department of Health and Human Services announced in
October let businesses or non-profit organizations lodge religious or
moral objections to obtain an exemption from the Obamacare law's mandate
that most employers provide contraceptives coverage in health insurance
with no co-payment.
The move from President Donald Trump's administration kept a campaign
pledge that pleased the Republican's conservative Christian supporters.
California and several other states with Democratic attorneys general
promptly sued and asked for the policy to be blocked while its legality
At a hearing in an Oakland, California, federal court on Tuesday,
attorneys for California argued the Trump administration acted too
quickly and did not follow proper notice procedures when issuing the new
U.S. Justice Department lawyer Ethan Davis responded that the Trump
administration had to move quickly, given legal uncertainty over who is
covered by the Obamacare mandates.
U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam questioned that argument.
"I don't know why that could not be done consistent with the standard
notice and comment period," the judge said.
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Gilliam also asked several other questions about the logistics
involved with issuing an injunction. He did not announce a ruling at
The contraception mandate was implemented as part of the 2010
Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama's
signature healthcare legislation, popularly known as Obamacare.
Republicans, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate
and White House, have so far failed to repeal the law, a top
presidential campaign promise of Trump.
In its reasoning for the move, the administration said among other
things that mandating birth control coverage could foster "risky
sexual behavior" among teens and young adults. It overturned the
Obama administration's view that the birth control requirement was
necessary to meet the government's "compelling interest" to protect
The state of California said it expected a surge in unwanted
pregnancies as more women lose contraception coverage, which it said
would affect public services.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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