ACLU Sues Trump Admin Over Contraception Exemption

| OCT 6, 2017 | 6:03 PM

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the Trump administration over a new rule that would exempt certain employers, with sincere religious beliefs, from complying with an Obama-era mandate to provide birth control under employees' health insurance plans:

According to The Hill, the ACLU said it would challenge the constitutionality of the new rule, claiming it violated the establishment and equal protection clauses of the Constitution. A senior staff attorney at the ACLU, Brigitte Amiri, framed the new rule, promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as a form of discrimination.

“We will challenge both rules as being blatantly unconstitutional. They both violate the separation of church and state and also discriminate against women by allowing employers to withhold a benefit that is guaranteed by law,” Amiri reportedly said.

The National Women's Law Center joined the ACLU in condemning the rule and said it would try to legally block it from taking effect. “We will take immediate legal steps to block these unfair and discriminatory rules,” President and CEO Fatima Goss Graves said.

The Trump administration appeared to act on a guarantee provided by the president's executive order on religious liberty in May. HHS announced on Friday that employers with a “sincerely held religious or moral objection” could exempt themselves from the mandate forcing employers to provide their employees with birth control coverage.

While the ACLU and Democratic lawmakers criticized the new rule, Republicans in Congress and conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom praised it:

The contraception mandate, initiated as part of the Affordable Care Act, has already faced dozens of legal challenges from about 200 employers who will likely now be able to obtain an exemption.

It's unclear whether the ACLU's and others' lawsuits are poised for success, but the Supreme Court previously ruled that “closely held corporations” like Hobby Lobby could refuse to provide certain types of birth control.