By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday rejected a lawsuit by Massachusetts' attorney general challenging new rules by President Donald Trump's administration that make it easier for employers to avoid providing insurance that covers women's birth control.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton in Boston dismissed a lawsuit by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey that sought to block rules that provide exemptions from an Obamacare mandate requiring such coverage on moral or religious grounds.
The ruling came after two other judges in California and Pennsylvania in December issued preliminary injunctions blocking the Republican president's administration from enforcing the rules, which it announced in October.
Gorton said that in contrast to those two states, where there is "no doubt" employers intend to take advantage of the exemptions, "the record is uniquely obscure" as to whether any in Massachusetts would.
He noted that after the new rules were announced, Massachusetts enacted a law in November called the ACCESS Act that required employer-sponsored health plans to cover birth control without imposing co-pays.
As a result, Gorton said that state law provided reasons to believe Massachusetts women were less likely to be affected by the federal rules, undercutting Healey's claim that the state would be injured by them and that she had standing to sue.
"While we are disappointed in today's decision, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring affordable and reliable reproductive health care for women," Healey, a Democrat, said in a statement. "We will continue to fight for these protections."
The U.S. Justice Department, which is defending the rules, had no immediate comment.
The lawsuit is among several that Democratic state attorneys general filed after the Trump administration on Oct. 6 unveiled the rules, which targeted the contraceptive mandate implemented as part of 2010's Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
The rules allow businesses or nonprofits to lodge religious or moral objections to obtain an exemption from the law's mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage in health insurance with no co-payment.
Conservative Christian activists and congressional Republicans praised the move, while reproductive rights advocates and Democrats criticized it.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)