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What Do Auto Parts Have to do with Contraception: Autocam, the ACA, and Why Women in Manufacturing Can’t Seem to Win

Women in manufacturing continue to lose out. As we’ve said before, women aren’t seeing any of the gains from the recovery in the manufacturing sector. While the nation has gained over half a million manufacturing jobs since 2010, women have lost 36,000. In March alone, women lost 12,000 manufacturing jobs.

But these aren’t the only kinds of losses hitting women in the manufacturing industry; even women who have managed to hold onto their jobs might find themselves stripped of some benefits if employers like John Kennedy, CEO of Autocam, have their way.

The man at the helm of Autocam Corporation, a Michigan-based for-profit company that manufactures auto parts and medical equipment, is arguing he should have the right to deny employees and dependents all forms of contraception. The district court did not agree. It denied his request for a preliminary injunction, stating that, “Implementing the challenged mandate will keep the locus of decision-making in exactly the same place: namely, with each employee, and not the Autocam plaintiffs.

Not satisfied with the court’s order, Kennedy appealed to the Sixth Circuit asking for two forms of temporary relief. The Sixth Circuit not only denied his request for an injunction pending appeal; they refused to reconsider the order. Today the Sixth Circuit panel will hear oral arguments on the preliminary injunction.

Kennedy says that “in order to build auto parts, we need employees.” He admits that Michigan has been hit by the upheaval in the auto industry. Yet, he’s still litigating to deny his employees and their families a federal health care benefit that would provide affordable access to quality contraceptive care. While he insists that “[he doesn’t] tell [his] employees how to live their lives or how make decisions about family planning,” today his lawyers will argue that his employees and their dependents should not receive the comprehensive coverage the law requires. They’ll argue that HE (and other bosses) should be able to decide what reproductive healthcare his employees and their dependents can access.

Healthcare decisions belong between a woman, her family and her doctor; they shouldn’t be in the hands of her boss. We hope the Sixth Circuit will uphold women’s right to access quality health care and make these private decisions.

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