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Supreme Court Accepts Challenge to Affordable Care Act's Contraceptive Coverage Requirement

 


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will hear a case brought by employers who object for religious reasons to providing contraception coverage for their employees – and believe it is a burden on their religious beliefs to fill out a form stating their objection so that the insurance companies can provide the coverage.

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to include contraception coverage. However, the law provides an out to certain employers who believe contraception is contrary to their religion, allowing them to fill out a form notifying the insurance company or government that they have religious objections to having contraception included in their employees’ health plans. Once notified, by the government or employer, the insurer provides the coverage directly to the employees.

The employers who have brought this case – a group of religiously-affiliated non-profits – argue they should not have to fill out the form because doing so will facilitate their employees getting the contraception access to which they object. The court’s decision in the case will apply not only to religiously-affiliated non-profit groups, but to closely-held profit companies as well.

“We fight every day to protect the constitutional right to freedom of religion, but that right does not extend to imposing your beliefs on others and discriminating against them,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “If the Court rules in favor of the employers in these cases, women will lose a benefit guaranteed by law and will literally be paying for their employers’ beliefs.”

In 2012, the for-profit company, Hobby Lobby, challenged the Affordable Care Act, claiming that requiring it to include contraception in its healthcare violated its owner’s religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In June 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor, noting that the government had a less restrictive alternative available – the accommodation for religiously affiliated non-profit companies that objected to providing contraception coverage. In 2015, the federal government extended the accommodation to closely held for-profits. The court’s decision could affect access to contraception coverage for countless women.

Leading up to today’s case, seven of eight appeals courts (D.C., 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 10th) had ruled that filling out a form as required by the accommodation was not a substantial burden on the employer’s religious beliefs. Only one appeals court – the 8th circuit –has held the contrary.

More information on the cases challenging the federal contraceptive coverage mandate is available at:

aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/challenges-federal-contraceptive-coverage-rule

Additional information about how claims of religious freedom are being used to discriminate can be found at:

https://www.aclu.org/issues/religious-liberty/using-religion-discriminate

 

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