ACLU filing lawsuit over Trump administration's birth control rule change

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Trump administration Friday over new rules the Department of Health and Human Services announced that ease the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers and insurers provide contraception coverage. 

The ACLU's announcement came less than two hours after HHS announced it is issuing a rule based on new Justice Department guidance that employers and insurers can object to covering contraceptives based on religious beliefs and moral convictions. The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of ACLU members and Service Employee International Union-United Health Care Workers West (SEIU-UHW) who believe they are at risk of losing their contraception coverage because of where they work or go to school, according to the ACLU. The ACLU argues HHS' interim final rule violates the Establishment Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. 

"The Trump administration is forcing women to pay for their boss's religious beliefs," ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri said in a statement. "We're filing this lawsuit because the federal government cannot authorize discrimination against women in the name of religion or otherwise." 

The HHS exemption will include all entities already exempt from the birth control mandate, as well as any nonprofit group that has a religious or moral objection to covering contraception of any form. For-profit organizations that aren't publicly traded can also be exempt for religious reasons. Insurance companies with a religious affiliation are also exempt from the birth control mandate. 

"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, HHS press secretary, said in a statement after the rule was announced. "Today's actions affirm the Trump administration's commitment to upholding the freedoms afforded all Americans under our Constitution."

HHS issued the new guidance after multiple failed attempts from Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare, which almost certainly would have nixed the contraception coverage requirement. But, with repeal efforts on hold indefinitely, the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land, leaving the Republican administration to find other ways to achieve its health care agenda. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.