AG Ferguson sues to stop Trump Administration's contraception rules
SEATTLE -- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued on Monday to block the Trump Administration’s new rules on contraception.
The new rules allow more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious or moral objections.
“I can’t impose my beliefs on somebody else that adversely impacts them and that's what's going on here” Ferguson told KOMO News. “If employers are allowed because of a religious belief to deny access to contraception to their female employees that’s unfair, unlawful and unconstitutional.”
The Attorney General's Office say some Washington women who use contraception may be denied no-cost coverage and be forced to turn to state-funded programs to receive care. State-funded reproductive health services went to more than 90,000 people in 2016. More than three-quarters of those patients were women who used contraception.
“I refuse to let President Trump disregard our laws and our constitution in an effort to deny women access to contraception” Ferguson said.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Monday and says the rules violate the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., supports Ferguson’s decision.
“This is a family decision, it's an economic decision and it’s not your bosses decision, and it should not be this administration’s decision” says Murray
But the politically active Family Policy Institute of Washington says Ferguson does not speak for many in the state.
“The state is very much divided on this” says Chief Operating Officer and Legislative Policy Chief Chris Plante. “This is a right of privacy. A business owner’s private moral compass drives what they do, and they should be free to do that in their business.”
Electric Mirror of Everett is one of those companies. The family owned, faith-based manufacturing company employs 400 workers and offers a self-insured medical plan.
Every employee and prospective employee knows about the company’s religious values and beliefs. On the front of company building there’s signage that reads “In God We Trust”.
President and CEO Jim Mischel says the company is not against contraceptive coverage and offers it but does not offer abortifacients, medically induced abortion drugs.
“We believe the Supreme Court already ruled in favor of protecting the religious freedom of business owners of closely held companies” says Mischel.
He believes Ferguson’s actions are inconsistent with that ruling, known as the Hobby Lobby decision.
The lawsuit contends that people must follow the beliefs of a religion to which they may not belong, violating their freedom of religion. And it contends that the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment is violated since only women, not men, may lose their coverage.
Ferguson believes if the rules expanding religious freedoms to health coverage and allowed to stand, they could be widely interpreted.
“Once you say that a business or an employer can make decisions about your health care based on their religion or moral opposition to certain behaviors, that is a slippery slope that I’m deeply, deeply concerned about” says Ferguson.
The lawsuit says the new rules also violate the Affordable Care Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
It’s the 16th lawsuit Ferguson and his office have filed against the Trump Administration.