A federal judge in Philadelphia on Monday temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s effort to let companies opt out of a portion of the Affordable Care Act that mandates all employers provide their employees with coverage for contraception. The Trump rollback would allow employers with strong religious beliefs or “moral convictions” to refuse the coverage to employees. Unlike other judges who have also blocked the mandate, Judge Wendy Beetlestone, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, applied her ruling nationally. On Sunday, a day before the new rules were to take effect, a California federal district court judge halted the administration’s mandate, but the injunction only applied to the coalition of 13 Democratic states, plus the District of Columbia, that brought the lawsuit.
In her preliminary injunction, Beetlestone argued that the moral exemption rule would have an “insidious effect.” “It would allow an employer with a sincerely held moral conviction that women do not have a place in the workplace to simply stop providing contraceptive coverage,” Beetlestone wrote. Her decision, which may be appealed, ramps up the battle triggered by Trump’s attempt to extend religious freedom rights to companies.