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Setback for Little Sisters of the Poor: Judge Halts Trump's Rollback of Contraception Mandate in 13 States

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

A California federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s rollback of the Obama-era contraception mandate Sunday in 13 states and the District of Columbia.


The Trump administration’s rules rolling back the mandate took effect Monday across the rest of the country. The first rule provides an exemption from the contraceptive mandate for entities and individuals with religious objections to it. The second rule provides an exemption to nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and individuals with non-religious but moral opposition to such coverage.

Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr., said in his ruling Sunday that the coalition of 13 states which sued over the changes "face potentially dire public health and fiscal consequences from the implementation of the Final Rules." 

He cited the increased costs of offering contraception in clinics to the state’s residents and claimed that “plaintiffs face substantial costs stemming from a higher rate of unintended pregnancies that are likely to occur if women lose access to the seamless, no-cost contraceptive coverage afforded under the rules now in place.”

While this preliminary injunction only blocked the rule in 13 states, a nationwide injunction could still be issued in another case by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.


Judge Gilliam’s injunction affects California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state, as well as Washington, D.C.

Mark Rienzi, president of Becket Law, the legal group representing the Little Sisters of the Poor in the case, said Sunday’s ruling threatens “the rights of religious women like the Little Sisters of the Poor.” 

“Now the Little Sisters have no choice but to keep fighting this unnecessary fight so they can protect their right to focus on caring for the poor. We are confident this decision will be overturned,” Rienzi said in a statement.

The Catholic order of religious women dedicated to caring for the elderly poor has been in court due to the contraceptive mandate since 2013 as paying for or supporting the use of contraception is contrary to fundamental Catholic moral teaching.

When California and Pennsylvania initially sued over the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back the contraception mandate in November 2017, Mother Loraine Marie Maguire with the Little Sisters commented on the lawsuit.


“We just want to be able to continue our religious mission of caring for the elderly poor as we have over 175 years,” she said at the time. “We pray that these state governments will leave us alone and let us do our work in peace.”

“No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our healthcare system,” Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, said Sunday in a statement to Bloomberg.

Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen celebrated the news on Twitter Sunday.

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