Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed suit against the Trump administration Wednesday over newly issued rules letting employers who cite religious or moral beliefs to deny women health benefits covering birth control.
Calling the rollback of the Affordable Care Act initiative unconstitutional for discriminating against women, Shapiro’s suit joins similar efforts in Massachusetts, Washington state and California to preserve the rule mandating free contraceptive coverage to millions of women nationwide.
“The federal government — under the direction of the Trump administration — broke the law and undermined the health and economic independence of American women,” Shapiro said at a news conference. “Today, I filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop them.”
About 2.5 million women in Pennsylvania have birth control access with no out-of-pocket costs through Obamacare, state officials estimate.
An Obama administration report released last year found that 55 million women nationwide benefited from the free birth control initiative
“As a result of these new rules, virtually any employer can refuse to provide coverage for contraceptive services for their employees who will now have to pay more for health care,” said Shapiro at a Planned Parenthood health center in Philadelphia.
“They failed to repeal Obamacare, they failed to defund Planned Parenthood, so now they’re going after contraception,” said Carol E. Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project. “A main goal of this administration seems to be attacking women for its own sake, which is disturbing enough, but the results of these strategies is even worse.
“Access to contraception reduces maternal and infant mortality. Reversing that will increase it. The cruelty is shameful. And to claim to be ‘pro-life’ and support this? The hypocrisy is outrageous.”
Earlier this week, Gov. Tom Wolf called on state lawmakers to require employers to provide birth control in their health insurance plans in response to the Trump administration’s move allowing employers to opt out of covering contraceptives.
Conservative and religious groups have fought for years to dismantle the Obama-era birth-control mandate, saying forcing a company to provide contraceptive coverage could trample religious beliefs.
And in 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the craft chain store Hobby Lobby and allowed small companies to drop birth-control coverage from insurance plans.
Since becoming attorney general in January, Shapiro has made court confrontations against the Trump administration a priority, having taken more than a dozen legal actions targeting Trump-era policies. Recently, Shapiro joined other states in taking on Navient, the nation’s largest servicer of student loans, for allegedly preying on vulnerable students with predatory loans.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that Shapiro is considered a leading contender for a bid for governor in 2022, with others insiders saying running for national office could be in the cards.