BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has sued President Donald Trump over his decision to let employers claiming religious or moral objections opt out of health insurance coverage that provides no-cost birth control to women.

Last week, the Trump administration issued an executive order rolling back Obamacare’s birth control coverage mandate, effective immediately.

Healey filed the legal challenge in U.S. District Court in Boston, contending the president’s decision "discriminates against women and denies equal protection under the law by allowing employers to assert religious beliefs as a justification for denying critical benefits, while leaving coverage for men unchanged."“The Trump administration’s actions are a direct attack on women’s health and the right to access affordable and reliable contraception,” she said.Additionally, Healey said the new policy will force more Massachusetts women onto MassHealth –- the state’s beleaguered Medicaid program –- to get birth control coverage, thus placing a financial burden on the state.

Recent studies show the federal birth control mandate, in place under the Affordable Care Act since 2013, has increased use of contraception and reduced out-of-pocket medical costs, particularly for long-acting methods such as intrauterine devices.From 2011 to 2014, out-of-pocket spending on birth control in Massachusetts dropped 81 percent, according to the state's Health Policy Commission.Conservative groups, which for years have fought the birth control mandate, celebrated Trump's directive as a victory.The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts praised Trump for "keeping his campaign promise to defend religious freedom.""No one has a moral or a constitutional right to demand that someone else pay for their contraceptives, abortifacients or sterilizations," said C.J. Doyle, the group's spokesman.Doyle also took a shot at Healey for challenging the rule in court, saying she "believes that Catholics have no right to choose when it comes subsidizing other people's birth control."Among the birth control methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and covered by Obamacare is the morning-after pill, which religious conservatives refer to as an abortion drug even though the medical community says it has no effect on pregnant women.Andrew Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Family Institute, also welcomed the Trump administration's directive and argues there will be "no harm" from it because it only restricts who pays for contraception, not access to medical treatment."People still have the right to purchase as much contraception as they want," he said. "The difference is they won't be forcing other people to pay for it."

Women's health care advocates are pressuring the Massachusetts Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker to approve state-level protections so that women don't lose coverage.

Twenty-eight states require insurers to provide low or no-cost coverage of FDA-approved contraceptives, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.Christian M. Wade is the CNHI state reporter for Massachusetts Statehouse. Contact him at cwade@cnhi.com.

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