THE NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Liberal courts block businesses from opting out of birth control coverage mandate

The liberal courts are once again ruling against the religious and moral convictions of many Americans.

The Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby decision ruled that privately-held companies with religious objections could refuse to offer contraceptive coverage.

But a federal judge on Monday halted rules set by the Trump administration that would allow more employers, including publicly traded companies, to choose not to provide women with free contraceptive coverage.

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia agreed with a lawsuit originally filed by Pennsylvania, that says states could potentially be harmed if the rules, that were set to take effect Monday, were enforced. She wrote that women who lost contraceptive coverage would seek state-funded services.

On Sunday, a federal judge in California blocked the rules from taking effect in the jurisdictions in a lawsuit that included California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The rules, issued in November by the Department of Health and Human Services, would have exempted a broad swath of employers from the 2010 Affordable Care Act mandate requiring employers to offer contraceptive health coverage at no cost to the employee. It was the Trump administration’s second attempt to create the exemption since a first set of rules was blocked in 2017 — by Judge Beetlestone.

“No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health-care system,” Caitlin Oakley of the HHS said after Monday’s ruling.

We agree.

The 18 methods of contraception in the AFA mandate include the Plan B/morning-after pill and another emergency contraception pill called Ella. Essentially these “contraceptives” make the lining of the uterus hostile to the conceived life and cause its expulsion from the body, according to the Catholic Church. They are actually considered abortion-inducing drugs (abortifacients), which expel a conceived new life.

While former President Obama’s health care law required that birth control services be covered at no additional cost, officials included exemptions for religious organizations. The Trump administration, however, has sought to expand those exemptions by adding “moral convictions” as a basis to opt out of providing birth control services.

The Justice Department has argued that the new rules “protect a narrow class of sincere religious and moral objectors from being forced to facilitate practices that conflict with their beliefs.”

But the liberal courts will have none of that.

Beetlestone wrote that the states suing the Trump administration over the contraception rules were likely to win their lawsuit’s claims that Trump’s administration violated procedural requirements for how regulations must be created and that the rules exceed the scope of authority under the ACA.

What has happened, according to David French in the National Review, is that progressive plaintiffs have filed suit “in a friendly jurisdiction using dubious legal theories to seek a broad injunction against the Trump-administration action. … Progressive judges are winning, for now. They may live to regret the power of their precedent.”

This week’s rulings will likely lead to a long court battle that could reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Let’s hope if it does it will receive a ruling in favor of religious and moral freedom.