This past Monday, a pro-life friend of mine, who happens to be a very skilled physician, asked me how North Carolina got tangled up in a California district court ruling on the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. This mandate forces many employers, even religious organizations and charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor, to provide their employees with contraceptive coverage, including abortion-inducing drugs.
On Sunday, January 13, Judge Haywood Gilliam, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of California, issued a preliminary injunction that blocked new rules from the Trump Administration from going into effect. These new rules would expand religious liberty and conscience protections so the government could not force employers that have moral or religious objections into paying for contraceptives, including abortifacient drugs and devices. (See NC Family’s story Trump Administration Extends Religious Liberty And Conscience Protections.) These new rules were set to go into effect on Monday, but were blocked by Gilliam’s injunction in the 13 plaintiff states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
So, how was North Carolina impacted by an action taken by a lower-level district court ruling in Oakland, California?
The short answer is that North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein filed a complaint back in December to add North Carolina to the list of plaintiffs in the case. Arguing that the Trump Administration’s new rules are “illegal” and that they “violate the Administrative Procedure Act, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” Attorney General Stein thrust North Carolina further into the battle between “abortion rights” and the rights of conscience. Through this action, Stein has elevated access to contraceptive drugs and devices—including those that kill unborn babies—above the constitutional rights to life and religious liberty.
Despite the efforts of Stein and the others plaintiff states, Judge Gilliam refused to apply his preliminary injunction nationwide. Nevertheless, on Monday, Wendy Bettlestone, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued a similar injunction, which blocked the Trump Administration’s rules for the entire country.
These two injunctions do not strike down the Trump Administration’s rules altogether but block them from going into effect while the legal challenges proceed.