Health Reform WK-EDGE Trump Administration seeks review of 3rd Circuit decision in contraception coverage suit
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Friday, October 11, 2019

Trump Administration seeks review of 3rd Circuit decision in contraception coverage suit

By Patricia K. Ruiz, J.D.

The Trump Administration is seeking Supreme Court review of a lower court decision blocking the implementation of final rules expanding contraceptive mandate exemptions.

The Trump Administration filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States seeking review of a Third Circuit decision holding that final rules expanding exemptions to the contraceptive mandate are unlawful. The Administration argued that the agencies had statutory authority expand the exemptions and that the final rules do not violate the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

Exemptions to the contraceptive mandate. Previously the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) determined that health plans covered by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) must provide contraceptive services. The contraceptive mandate provided a narrow exemption for certain religious organizations. In 2017, in two interim final rules, the Trump Administration broadened the availability of exemptions to the contraceptive mandate to allow all publicly traded companies objecting on religious or moral grounds to opt out of the coverage requirement (see Contraception coverage exemptions extended for objecting employers on religious, moral groundsOctober 11, 2017). The new rules expanded the exemptions, effectively nullifying the need for accommodation. In 2018, the Administration promulgated final rules in 2018 superseding the injunctions (see Court enjoins 2019 final rules for religious, moral exemptions, January 14, 2019). The Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction preventing the implementation of 2019 final rules. The Third Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction (see States likely to succeed in lawsuit challenging contraception exemption regulations, July 15, 2019).

Petition for certiorari. In its petition for certiorari, the Administration argued that the Third Circuit’s holding that the final rules are likely unlawful is incorrect and warrants Supreme Court review. The agents had statutory authority to adopt the expanded exemptions, and the exemptions were authorized under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Administration argued. It also argued that the final rules do not violate the APA, as the final rules were adopted after notice and comment.

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