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Judge temporarily blocks Trump administration birth control rules

A federal judge in Philadelphia on Friday ordered the Trump administration not to enforce new rules that could significantly reduce women's access to free birth control.

Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued the injunction, temporarily stopping the government from enforcing the policy change to former President Barack Obama's health care law.

The law required most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, though it included exemptions for religious organizations. The new policy would allow more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing free contraception to women by claiming religious or moral objections.

Beetlestone, appointed to the bench by Obama, wrote in her ruling that the rule "conjured up a world where a government entity is empowered to impose its own version of morality on each one of us. That cannot be right."

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said that Trump broke the law to undermine women's health and that the ruling will protect women.

"This is just the first step, but today is a critical victory for millions of women and families and for the rule of law," Shapiro said.

Attorneys for the Trump administration had argued in court documents that the rules are about "protecting a narrow class of sincere religious and moral objectors from being forced to facilitate practices that conflict with their beliefs."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the new policy in October. It marked another step in the Trump administration's rollback of the Affordable Care Act, and supporters say it promotes religious freedom.

California, Washington, and Massachusetts have also sued the Trump administration over the rules. Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia joined California in its effort. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also sued the administration. 

© 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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