Massachusetts sues Trump over contraception rules rollback
Updated 7:31 pm, Friday, October 6, 2017
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued the Trump administration Friday for allowing more employers to opt out of providing birth control coverage by claiming religious or moral objections.
The Democrat called the actions "a direct attack on women's health and the right to access affordable and reliable contraception."
Under new rules issued by Trump on Friday, employers with religious or moral qualms also will be able to cover some birth control methods, but not others.
Healey said Trump's action is unconstitutional because it allows employers to impose their religious beliefs on their workers. She said it also violates equal protection guarantees by targeting the ability of women to access contraception.
"It is a woman who should decide, not her employer, whether she uses birth control," Healey said. "What President Trump and his administration has done is unprecedented."
"It is a terrible, terrible rule," she added.
Healey, a fierce critic of the Republican president, said the change could be felt by as many as 1.4 million women in Massachusetts and 55 million nationwide — and could cost women as much as $25 million annually to cover the costs out of pocket.
She said the rule also violated normal processes because there was no public period before it was imposed.
Healey's office filed the lawsuit Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. The suit seeks to immediately block the change and have it ruled unconstitutional.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also criticized the move.
"News flash to Republicans: The year is 2017, not 1917," Warren said in statement. "Millions of Americans use birth control to plan their pregnancies — allowing them to go to school, get jobs and plan their economic futures.?"
Supporters of Trump's decision, including Catholic bishops, called it a return to common sense. Dozens of dioceses and Catholic charities had sued President Barack Obama over the requirement in his 2010 health care law that employers provide coverage for birth control.
Catholic Action League of Massachusetts Executive Director C.J. Doyle opposes Healey's lawsuit.
"No one has a moral or a constitutional right to demand that someone else pay for their contraceptives, abortifacients or sterilizations. President Trump is to be commended for keeping his campaign promise to defend religious freedom," Doyle said, adding that Healey "believes that Catholics have no right to choose when it comes subsidizing other people's birth control."
Many others see birth control coverage as a key health care issue. That includes Hatt Kelley, visiting Massachusetts from San Francisco.
"I was a Catholic chaplain in a hospital, so I don't understand why birth control is less helpful if you are hoping to stem abortion," she said. "I think you'd want to make birth control available in that case."
Marisa Curran, a hairstylist from Somerville, Massachusetts, said access to contraception is critical for women's health and the Trump administration "needs to stay out of the bedroom."
"It's for rape victims, it's for people who, you know, can't afford to have babies," she said. "It's important for people who are having health risks because they can't have a baby because they might die."
Trump's rules change is seen as another step in chipping away at Obama's health care law that required most companies cover birth control as preventive care for women at no additional cost.
As a result of Obama's health care law, most women no longer pay for contraceptives.