The U.S. Supreme Court building. Via Wikimedia Content Exchange

Pennsylvania attorney Josh Shapiro said he is confident in the state's chances arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Trump v. Pennsylvania case next week.

The two and a half year legal battle between the Trump administration and Pennsylvania's head lawyer has been fought over the federal government's attempt to expand an exception for businesses that don't want to provide contraception under the Affordable Care Act. 

"(The administration) violated the rule of law and harmed women by denying them the guarantee Congress gave them to medicine they need. Contraception is medicine pure and simple," Shapiro said in a call with reporters on April 30. "Before insurance, 1 in 3 women struggled to afford birth control. Now the number is under 4 percent."

Unlike oral arguments for the Supreme Court's entire history, this one will be available to the public on May 6. Due to COVID-19 distancing, the oral arguments will be made over the phone.

The contraception mandate has had a long history in the courts over the last decade. Churches were exempted from the mandate in 2013, and the next year, in the Hobby Lobby case, family-owned corporations with objections to contraception were allowed to opt out.

In 2016, another group of non-profits challenged the mandate, arguing that even the notification process was too burdensome; the Supreme Court asked the government and lower courts to work out a compromise that allowed women to keep contraception. Those who object to contraception are still refunded the money to pay for it through the Affordable Care Act. 

The Trump administration enlarged the exception to the mandate and allowed private employers to opt out of the mandate in 2017, issuing interim rules with no notice.

Judge Wendy Beetlestone, of the Eastern district of Pennsylvania issued ruling in December 2017 blocking the interim rules from going into effect. That ruling was held up by the Third Circuit of Appeals.

Pennsylvania, along with New Jersey, are arguing that the federal government didn’t allow for adequate comments on the new rules.

The federal government and the Little Sisters of the Poor are collaborating in challenging the Third Circuit’s ruling.


Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro in 2019. Via Gov. Wolf Flickr page

"Reproductive rights are on the line, guaranteed contraceptive coverage is on the line, and so is rule of law," Shapiro said. "(The government) can't dismantle laws they don't like and don’t have votes to change."

Asked numerous times by reporters about his confidence in the Court's eventual ruling, Shapiro said he's confident in his team.

"We have won repeatedly in federal court on this issue," he said.

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