Supreme Court clashes over Trump contraceptive coverage rules

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Supporters of women’s health rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 23, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in 7 cases dealing with religious organizations that want to ban contraceptives from their health insurance policies on religious grounds.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

The justices of the Supreme court on Wednesday clashed along largely partisan lines in a dispute over Trump administration rules that would allow employers with sincerely held moral or religious objections to deny their employees access to free contraceptive coverage. 

Pennsylvania and New Jersey successfully halted implementation of the regulations in the lower courts. The Trump administration, via the Department of Justice, and the Catholic nonprofit Little Sisters of the Poor asked the Supreme Court to reverse those rulings.

Arguments, which were conducted by phone as a precaution against the spreading coronavirus, lasted nearly two hours and concluded shortly before noon. A decision is expected over the summer. 

It was not immediately clear which side will garner enough votes to form a majority.

Liberal justices, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who called in from Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore after being treated for a benign gallbladder condition on Tuesday, argued that the Trump administration was unlawfully departing from Congress’s intention to provide women with free contraceptive coverage when it passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. 

“You have just tossed entirely to the wind what Congress thought was essential — that women receive these services with no cost, no hassle to them,” Ginsburg told Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argued on behalf of the Trump administration. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said the case was “difficult,” noting that there were “very strong interests on both sides.”

This is breaking news. Check back for updates. 

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