Despite the long efforts of Catholics and others who have sought to prevent mandatory employer health care coverage of contraception, a federal judge in Pennsylvania has placed a temporary injunction on the Trump administration’s new rules granting a broad religious or moral exemption.

“The Pennsylvania court’s decision harms faith-based nonprofits and others who have fought for over half a decade to correct the serious injustice caused by the HHS Mandate,”  said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty.

Judge Wendy Beetlestone granted the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s request for a preliminary injunction on Dec. 15. She said the commonwealth could suffer “serious and irreparable harm” from the rules, Politico reports.

In the decision granting the injunction, Beetlestone wrote that a lack of cost-effective contraception would mean that women would either forgo contraception or choose less effective methods and result in “individual choices which will result in an increase in unintended pregnancies.” This would create economic harm for the commonwealth because “unintended pregnancies are more likely to impose additional costs on Pennsylvania’s state-funded health programs.”

The 2010 Affordable Care Act, and resulting rules issued by the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services mandated that employer health plans cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that can cause abortion. The mandate drew opposition from Catholics and others.  

On Oct. 6, the Trump administration established new rules, allowing companies with religious or moral objections to contraception to opt out of the mandate.

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh was the lead plaintiff in one of the lawsuits challenging the Obama-era rule. He challenged the rule on behalf of Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh. The lawsuit was settled Oct. 17, with Zubik declaring the settlement as a restoration of First Amendment guarantees.

Ann Rodgers, communications director for the Pittsburgh diocese, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “We have asked our attorneys to study the decision but we understand it should have no impact on the previous resolution of our case.” A permanent injunction was granted to the Diocese of Pittsburgh and related entities in 2013.

“We expect and pray that the courts reviewing this decision will uphold the government's new regulations that protect religious liberty,” said Kurtz.