US court blocks Trump rule that limited abortion access

2019-01-15 13:09
Protesters hold anti-abortion signs. (Timothy Tai, Columbia Daily Tribune via AP, File)

Protesters hold anti-abortion signs. (Timothy Tai, Columbia Daily Tribune via AP, File)

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A judge in the United States on Monday blocked an order by US President Donald Trump's administration that would have stripped free birth control from some American women.

In October 2017, the Trump administration annulled an Obamacare provision that obliged employer health plans to pay for contraception.

The move extended to all commercial enterprises an exemption already given to religious institutions, and came after local laws in parts of the country had already tightened access to abortion.

Courts objected to the new rules on the exemptions, which prompted a slight amendment by the administration. Those amended rules were to take effect Monday, when US District Judge Wendy Beetlestone, of Pennsylvania, issued the nationwide injunction.

"The Final Rules allow more entities to stop providing contraceptive coverage, which will result in more women residents seeking contraceptive care through State-funded programmes," the judge said.

"The Final Rules estimate that at least 70 500 women will lose coverage. In addition to pecuniary harm, the States also stand to suffer injury to their interest in protecting the safety and well-being of their citizens."

Obamacare is the common name for the Affordable Care Act, health reforms that took effect under former US president Barack Obama in 2010. It allowed millions of people to get health insurance.

Trump was unsuccessful in reversing Obamacare, but his Republican Party was able to eliminate one of its core elements.

Abortion is largely a state-level issue in the US, although the legal right to access abortion nationwide was enshrined in the landmark 1973 decision known as "Roe v Wade".

Trump campaigned on naming anti-abortion conservatives to the Supreme Court, raising concern among women's rights activists.

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