Judge Wendy Beetlestone. Judge Wendy Beetlestone.

In an action lodged by attorneys general in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a federal judge has agreed to block the Trump administration from enacting certain religious and moral exceptions to the Affordable Care Act that have been widely seen as a means to roll back the mandate for covering birth control medications.

U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a nationwide preliminary injunction late Monday barring the federal government from enforcing a version of the ACA that allowed for greatly expanded exceptions to the requirement that companies help cover the cost of contraceptives.

Beetlestone previously blocked the Trump administration from enforcing an interim version of the weakened regulation last year, but the latest injunction was aimed at an updated, finalized version of the rules that had been set to take effect Monday.

In her 65-page opinion, Beetlestone said she needed to grant the preliminary injunction on a nationwide basis.

“Fundamentally, given the harm to the states should the final rules be enforced—numerous citizens losing contraceptive coverage, resulting in ‘significant, direct and proprietary harm’ to the states in the form of increased use of state-funded contraceptive services, as well as increased costs associated with unintended pregnancies—a nation-wide injunction is required to ensure complete relief to the states,” she said.


In a press release issued late Monday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the ruling means that 2.5 million women in the Keystone State will not have to pay more for “basic, medically-necessary health care.”

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the health and economic independence of women in Pennsylvania and across America,” Shapiro said. “Women need contraception for their health because contraception is medicine, pure and simple. Families rely on the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee to afford care; before the ACA, families spent thousands of dollars in co-pays. Congress hasn’t changed that law, and the president can’t simply ignore it with an illegal rule. I will not allow the federal government—under the direction of the Trump administration—to undermine the rights of women and violate the rule of law.”

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal offered similar sentiments after the ruling, saying the Trump administration lacked the authority to adopt these new rules.

“Today, a federal judge blocked the latest attempt by the Trump administration to undermine the promise of the Affordable Care Act by rolling back our residents’ rights to essential preventative health care,” Grewal said. “The court’s ruling is a significant victory for women’s health. We will keep fighting for New Jersey’s women and working families in court, while the Murphy administration continues to make strides to improve women’s access to quality health care at the state level.”

The DOJ did not immediately return a message seeking comment late Monday.