On Friday, Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued an injunction against Trump's attempt to overturn a provision in the Affordable Care Act, forcing employers — including religious groups like Baltimore's Little Sisters of the Poor — to provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortifacients in their healthcare plans.
In October, the president announced employers would be exempt from the Obamacare provision if it violates their religious or moral beliefs — a sweeping victory for the pro-life movement.
But led by Pennsylvania and California, a handful of blue states — Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Washington — fought the move, filing suit against the administration.
On Thursday, pro-abortion Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro argued before the Federal District Court in Philadelphia that Trump's rollback would imperil the state's 2.5 million women.
The next day, Judge Wendy Beetlestone decided against the administration.
"The Commonwealth's concern is that absent available cost-effective contraception, women will either forego contraception entirely or choose cheaper but less effective methods — individual choices which will result in an increase in untended pregnancies," Beetlestone wrote in her 44-page decision. "That, in turn, will inflict economic harm on the Commonwealth because unintended pregnancies are more likely to impose additional costs on Pennsylvania's state-funded health programs."
"It is difficult to comprehend a rule that does more to undermine the Contraceptive Mandate or that intrudes more into the lives of women," added Beetlestone.
Shapiro applauded the ruling, saying, "This is just the first step, but today is a critical victory for millions of women and families and for the rule of law."
Department of Justice Spokesperson Lauren Ehrsam responded by saying the administration "disagrees with the court's ruling and [we] are evaluating next steps," adding, "The administration is committed to defending the religious liberty of all Americans, and we look forward to doing so in court."
Likewise, Susan B. Anthony List (SBAL) President Marjorie Dannenfelser blasted the decision:
This is a shameful ruling that seeks to continue the Obama-era assault on conscience rights and religious liberty. ... Why should Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor be forced by the government to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their healthcare plans? Moreover, moral objectors like my own pro-life organization, SBAL, should not have to pay for life-ending drugs that are antithetical to our mission. There is absolutely no "compelling state interest" in forcing pro-life employers to violate their consciences to provide abortion-inducing drugs. We thank President Trump for standing up for conscience rights and religious liberty and are confident the administration will fight this ridiculous ruling.
In the lead-up to Friday's decision, Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — the firm representing the Little Sisters of the Poor in their fight to overturn the contraceptive mandate — denounced Shapiro and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for trying to retain it.
"Sadly Josh Shapiro and Xavier Becerra think attacking nuns is a way to score political points," he said. "These men may think their campaign donors want them to sue nuns, but our guess is most taxpayers disagree. No one needs nuns in order to get contraceptives, and no one needs these guys reigniting the last administration's divisive and unnecessary culture war."
"These states are specifically targeting religious groups. Pennsylvania has never required anyone to provide contraceptives," he noted.
"Now, Pennsylvania is claiming religious groups have to provide these services. Legally there is no good argument for what these states are doing," he concluded.