SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Thursday narrowed an order that had blocked President Donald Trump’s administration from enforcing new rules that undermine an Obamacare requirement for employers to provide insurance that covers women’s birth control.
Last year two federal judges, one in Philadelphia and one in Oakland, California, had blocked the government from enforcing rules allowing businesses or nonprofits to obtain exemptions from the contraception policy on moral or religious grounds. The Justice Department appealed both rulings.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said on Thursday the injunction issued in California should not apply nationwide, but only within the five states that sued over the policy. California’s attorney general filed the case, along with AGs in Delaware, Virginia, Maryland and New York.
Despite the 9th Circuit ruling, a nationwide injunction issued by the Philadelphia judge is still in effect while that case is under appeal at the 3rd Circuit, a spokesman for Pennsylvania’s attorney general said on Thursday.
A U.S. Justice Department spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. At the time the California injunction was issued, a spokeswoman said: “This administration is committed to defending the religious liberty of all Americans.”
One 9th Circuit judge, an appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush, said he would have revoked the California injunction altogether.
The cases are among several that Democratic state attorneys general filed after the Republican Trump administration revealed the new rules which targeted the contraceptive mandate implemented as part of 2010’s Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
The rules would let businesses or nonprofits lodge religious or moral objections to obtain an exemption from the law’s mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage in health insurance with no co-payment.
Conservative Christian activists and congressional Republicans praised the move, while reproductive rights advocates and Democrats criticized it.
Reporting by Dan Levine; editing by Leslie Adler and Richard Chang