Center for Reproductive Rights Announces Challenge to Trump Administration’s Contraceptive Coverage Rules

Lawsuit challenges Administration’s Latest Action Against Women’s Health

(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights submitted a complaint today in federal court in the District Court of the District of Columbia challenging interim final rules released last week by the Trump administration that threaten to curtail access to birth control coverage for thousands of women.

The rules—which were issued by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury—create a broad exemption that enables many employers, health insurance providers, and universities claiming a religious or moral objection to deny their employees, students, and insurance beneficiaries coverage for contraception. The Center for Reproductive Rights joins a coalition of civil rights organizations filing a series of independent suits across the country defending the right to contraception.

“Contraception has been pivotal for women’s health, reproductive freedom and economic security, and the Trump Administration’s actions stand to rob women of their ability to control their lives and futures,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Restricting a woman’s ability to decide whether and when to have children by denying access to contraception is unacceptable, discriminatory, and unconstitutional. The Center for Reproductive Rights is committed to challenging the Trump Administration’s flagrantly anti-woman agenda and shutting down this latest assault on women’s health and reproductive rights.”   

“Medical Students for Choice members are all engaged in the seven to ten year process of becoming physicians, and preventing unintended pregnancies during those years is important for the achievement of their professional goals,” said Lois Backus, Executive Director of Medical Students for Choice. “These rules would directly deprive our members of their right to make their own decisions about parenting and place those decisions in the hands of university administrators without providing any reasonable alternatives.”

The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) guarantee of coverage for FDA-approved contraceptives without out-of-pocket costs stands as one of the most important advancements in women’s health in a generation. Under the ACA, over 62.4 million women have gained guaranteed coverage of preventive services without co-pays, including birth control.  Access to contraceptives benefits women’s health and enables them to pursue their educational and professional goals. 

Although women are entitled to coverage for birth control at no cost under the ACA, the interim final rules will effectively deny thousands of women coverage based on the religious or moral objections of their employers, universities, or insurers. There is now a 60-day period during which the public is able to submit comments to the administration about the interim final rules. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights argues that the interim final rules, which went into effect immediately, violate the Administrative Procedure Act by inappropriately circumventing normal rulemaking procedures that require public input before implementing a new rule. The broad exemption created by the rules also represents an unreasoned about-face from the agencies’ prior policy, which respected religious objections while ensuring seamless access to no-cost contraceptive coverage.  In addition, the Center argues the rules violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection guarantee, and the fundamental right to contraception by imposing unreasonable burdens upon and unfairly targeting women.   

Today’s challenge is led by Autumn Katz, Hillary Schneller, and Madeline Gomez of the Center for Reproductive Rights, David Leviss, Sara Zdeb, and Jennifer Sokoler of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP, and Priscilla Smith of Yale Law School on behalf of members of Medical Students for Choice and other individual women who could lose access to contraceptive health care because of the rules.

The full complaint submitted today is available here.

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