Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Jan 14 2019

Attorney General Ferguson is now 17-0 in litigation against the Trump Administration

OLYMPIA— A federal judge on Sunday temporarily blocked a Trump Administration birth control policy from going into effect in 13 states, including Washington, due to a lawsuit brought by those states’ attorneys general. The judge also blocked the policy from going into effect in the District of Columbia. The federal birth control policy allows employers who object to contraception to deny their female employees access to free birth control.

“President Trump’s unlawful and harmful birth control rules will go into effect in most states today – but not Washington, thanks to our legal challenge,” Ferguson said. “After two years of litigating against the Trump Administration, the people of Washington still haven’t lost a case.”

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state brought the legal challenge.

Legal Challenge

In October 2017, without notice or comment, the Trump Administration issued illegal interim final rules that allowed employers claiming religious or moral objections to contraception to ignore the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate. The rules were immediately blocked by multiple federal judges. In December 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the injunction.
 
In November 2018, the Administration issued final rules identical in all material respects to the interim rules.
 
On Dec. 18, 2018, a group of states led by California filed a motion for preliminary injunction asking the court to halt the final rules while the case proceeded. The states, including Washington, argued the final rules violate the ACA and are arbitrary and capricious. They also argued the final rules violate the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

The final rules go into effect on Jan. 14, 2019. Due to today's ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the rules will go into effect only in states that are not part of the litigation. 

Assistant Attorneys General Jeff Sprung and Alicia Young led the case for Washington.

Birth Control Rules

Contraceptives are among the most widely used medical services in the United States. The ACA requires health insurance plans, including employer-sponsored plans, to cover all Federal Drug Administration-approved contraceptives.

President Trump’s final rules regarding contraceptive access would drastically change access to contraception by expanding the prior religious exemption to the contraceptive coverage requirement to allow any employer or health insurer with religious objections to opt out. The final rules also expand the prior exemption to include employers with “moral” objections to providing contraceptive coverage.

While the prior regulations provided an automatic, seamless mechanism for employees of religious objectors to continue to receive contraceptive coverage under an “accommodation” process, the final rules make this process optional, so employers can simply refuse to comply with the ACA.

Undefeated in federal litigation

Ferguson has filed 33 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson now has 17 legal victories against the federal government since President Trump assumed office. Nine of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has appealed or may appeal the other eight, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers, 3D-printed guns and the transgender military ban.

No court to rule on the merits of the Attorney General’s arguments in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration has ruled against Washington state.

In comparison, according to the Texas Tribune, Texas attorneys general filed 49 lawsuits against the federal government during the Obama Administration. During President Obama’s two terms, Texas attorneys general won seven of those cases and lost 12.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

 

Contacts:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov