Health Care Reform

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Challenges to Birth Control Benefits in Affordable Care Act

Two for-profit companies, including arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby, attempting to impose religious beliefs on female employees by refusing health insurance benefits for contraception

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–March 25, 2014.  The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in two for-profit companies’ lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit—a critical component of the health care law’s expansion of preventive health care services for all women.

The cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius,  are just two of more than 40 similar lawsuits that have been filed by for-profit, private companies in courts across the country.

The Affordable Care Act—which was signed into law more than three years ago and upheld in 2012 by the U.S. Supreme Court—vastly expands women’s access to preventive health care without copayments, including contraception, cancer screenings, HIV and STI testing, well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, and prenatal and post-partum care and counseling.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Plain and simple, your boss has no place dictating how you can use your paycheck or benefits.

“It would set a profoundly dangerous precedent to allow businesses to deny their employees coverage for care and services essential to their reproductive health and long-term well-being on the basis of something as arbitrary as personal beliefs.

“Just as it upheld the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court should take this opportunity to both protect the individual rights of employees and preserve the core benefits that this historic law provides for millions of women—benefits that are essential to their health, lives, families, and future.”  

The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with co-counsel Morrison & Foerster and Prof. Noah Novogrodsky of the University of Wyoming School of Law, filed an amicus brief on behalf of professors specializing in international and foreign law with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that in a global context, women’s access to affordable contraception has been consistently recognized as key to furthering a woman’s liberty, dignity, and equality. And in balancing those rights against the right to conscientious objection in the health care context, the world community gives priority to women’s right to access health care and limits any objection right to those who are directly involved in providing the medical service at issue. Furthermore, the United States has rightfully cited the benefits of the Affordable Care Act as evidence of the nation’s compliance with its human rights treaty obligations and other global agreements on sustainable development. The brief also demonstrates that courts and statutes around the globe have recognized that individual religious or conscience rights only apply to those directly providing care, and not to institutions or businesses.


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