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The ACA Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuits: The Employee’s Right to Comprehensive Insurance Coverage

Last week at a lunch with African advocates for women’s rights, we discussed pregnancy rates in Africa and the United States. Across the continents one thing remained constant—women have better outcomes when they are able to control their fertility. They enjoy greater freedom to pursue academic studies or careers, and to plan their lives as they see fit.

The ACA’s contraceptive coverage rule affords 47 million women this freedom by ensuring that they will be able to access birth control and related information through private insurance without having to worry about the cost. While many celebrate the anticipated improvements to women and children’s health, others are infuriated by the rule.

Opponents to birth control have made speeches decrying the rule, hosted conferences and brought lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit... Since the lawsuits have proved to be a publicity-gaining tool, we can anticipate many more. The arguments remain the same, though the plaintiffs change slightly. The latest of the 40+ cases against the contraceptive coverage rule reads like a Saturday Night Live sketch. Among the owners of profit-seeking companies that claim religious protections to deny comprehensive insurance to employees, one dairy man has managed to stand out as unique.

Tom Janas is a business owner without employees. While none of his three companies employs anyone, he’s thinking of buying a company and wants the court to ensure his potential employees will not be able to access full reproductive healthcare through their health insurance program. As Janas awaits the decision to his strange request, he will have time to review and adjust the details of a potential contraceptive-free health plan to his preferences. His potential employees – dairy company workers – would not be so lucky. They would be surprised to learn they have no access to contraceptive coverage at all, much less without a co-pay, which could lead to a significant increase in their family’s budget. Blue collar workers at manufacturing plants, bookstores, and countless other businesses will be in the same predicament if the lawsuits prevail.