SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A U.S. appeals court Thursday blocked rules by the Trump administration allowing more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control.

States were likely to succeed on their claim that the changes to President Barack Obama’s health care law were made without required notice and public comment, a divided, three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

The panel upheld a preliminary injunction against the rules issued by a lower court judge last year. An email to the Justice Department seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Obama’s health care law required most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, though it included exemptions for religious organizations. The new policy allowed more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing free contraception to women by claiming religious objections. It also allowed any company that is not publicly traded to deny coverage on moral grounds.

The Department of Justice said in court documents that the rules were about protecting a small group of “sincere religious and moral objectors” from having to violate their beliefs.

California filed a lawsuit to block the changes that was joined by Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

California argued that the change could result in millions of women in the state losing free birth control services, leading to unintended pregnancies that would tax the state’s health care and other social programs.

 

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