Washington state sues over new Trump birth control rules

Washington state sued President Trump on Monday over his decision to let more employers claiming religious or moral objections opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women.

State Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, who successfully sued to block Trump's initial travel ban early this year, announced his latest lawsuit on Monday, three days after the new rules were issued.


Other Democratic-leaning states, including Massachusetts and California, sued on Friday, as did the American Civil Liberties Union.

Trump's policy is designed to roll back parts of former President Obama's healthcare law, which required that most companies cover birth control as preventive care for women, at no additional cost. Among those Food and Drug Administration-approved methods is the morning-after pill, which some religious conservatives call an abortion drug even though scientists say it has no effect on pregnant women.

The Trump administration touted the new policy as a victory for religious freedom, and the announcement thrilled the social conservatives who make up a key part of the president's supporters. Asked about court challenges during a briefing Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the new rules were legal.

"The president believes that the freedom to practice one's faith is a fundamental right in this country, and I think all of us do," she said. "And that's all that today was about — our federal government should always protect that right."

But Ferguson said it violated the 1st Amendment because it required individuals to bear the burden of religions to which they didn't belong, as well as the equal-protection requirements of the 5th Amendment, because it affected women but not men.

"President Trump's contraception rules are unfair, unlawful and unconstitutional," Ferguson said in a news release.

The rules could affect more than 1.5 million Washington workers and dependents who receive health coverage through an employer's self-funded plan, Ferguson said. Some might have to turn to state-funded programs to receive contraceptive coverage, he said.

The vast majority of companies have no qualms about offering birth control benefits through their health plans.