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Hillary Schneller, Fellow

Hillary Schneller is an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women's Law Center. She focuses on using the Affordable Care Act's nondiscrimination provision, Section 1557, to address sex discrimination in health care. Hillary is a graduate of Barnard College and Columbia Law School. During law school, she was the Pro Bono and Academic Chair of Law Students for Reproductive Justice and the Business and Administrative Editor of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. Hillary also participated in Columbia's Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic and interned at ACLU Women's Rights Project and the immigration clinic at The Door, an organization that provides services and support to youth in New York City. During her summers, she was an intern for the Law Center and Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania.

My Take

Seventh Circuit Says Notre Dame Cannot Deny Its Employees and Students Access to Birth Control Benefits

Posted by Hillary Schneller, Fellow | Posted on: February 26, 2014 at 10:28 am

Given the range of horrible and ridiculous things that happened last week, we were due for something sensible. On Friday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the University of Notre Dame’s request for a preliminary injunction against the birth control benefit. The decision [PDF], written by Judge Posner and joined by Judge Hamilton, affirmed the district court’s earlier denial of relief.

Notre Dame wanted to get out of signing a form that tells its insurer that it has religious objects to birth control, claiming it was a substantial burden on its religious exercise. Note that if Notre Dame got the relief it was asking for, that could mean all of the women and the female dependents with Notre Dame health insurance would no longer have any access to birth control, even where third parties provide that access. To summarize: Notre Dame isn’t satisfied that it got out of the requirement to cover birth control in its health plan, but wants to make sure others don’t provide that access either.  

So, it looks more like Notre Dame wants to interfere with the personal health care decisions of its students and employees rather than stay out of them. But, as the 7th Circuit explains, while a religious institution like Notre Dame may refuse to “engage in acts that violate the tenets of its faith, it has no right to prevent other institutions, whether the government or a health insurance company, from engaging in acts that merely offend the institution.” 


Sex Discrimination Complaints Filed Against Four Long-Term Care Insurance Companies

Posted by Hillary Schneller, Fellow | Posted on: January 16, 2014 at 01:13 pm

Today, the National Women’s Law Center filed sex discrimination complaints with the HHS Office for Civil Rights against four long-term care insurance companies in response to their practice of “gender-rating” long-term care insurance policies. This gender-based pricing scheme means that women will be charged more than men for the same long-term care insurance coverage simply because they are women. That’s sex discrimination plain and simple, in violation of the law that prohibits sex discrimination in health care—Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


McCullen v. Coakley at the Supreme Court: Buffer Zones, "Protesters," and "Counselors"

Posted by Hillary Schneller, Fellow | Posted on: January 16, 2014 at 10:22 am

“What’s wrong with having everyone take a step back?” Justice Kagan asked yesterday at oral argument in McCullen v. Coakley, a challenge to a Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot “buffer zone” around reproductive health clinics. Here are some thoughts on the argument from inside the courtroom, where I was in the audience.

Taking a step back, the protesters challenging the law argue, undermines their speech which they assert is effective only if they are able to engage women entering the clinic in close, quiet conversations. But do the Free Speech rights of McCullen and other protesters include the right to speak in the particular way they seek to speak? And, what about a woman’s right to safely access a reproductive health clinic?

Massachusetts argues that the law is permissible because it does not target anti-abortion speech; rather, it aims to keep clinic entrances open and accessible. In fact, even employees and clinic escorts are also prohibited from advocating within the buffer zone. And pro-choice activists along with anti-abortion protesters must stand outside the 35-foot buffer zone. Speech may be limited, but only incidentally: the point is to keep clinic entrances clear.


5 Things To Know About the Cases Brought by Non-Profits with Religious Objections to Insurance Coverage for Birth Control

Posted by Hillary Schneller, Fellow | Posted on: January 06, 2014 at 01:33 pm

You’ve heard about the for-profit companies challenging the birth control coverage benefit. This Spring, the Supreme Court will review two for-profit cases, brought by Hobby Lobby, a nationwide arts and crafts store with over 13,000 employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a wood cabinet manufacturer with nearly 1,000 employees. Non-profits with religious objections to birth control coverage have also challenged the benefit, with over 25 cases currently pending. The new year brought a deluge of activity in cases brought by non-profits with religious objections to birth control coverage.

Here are 5 things to know about the challenges to the birth control coverage benefit brought by non-profits with religious objections: 


Supreme Court to Hear Challenges to Birth Control Coverage Benefit

Posted by Hillary Schneller, Fellow | Posted on: November 26, 2013 at 06:16 pm

Today, the Supreme Court decided that it will review two challenges by for-profit companies against the birth control coverage rule, which requires health plans to include coverage for birth control at no cost-sharing. One of the cases was brought by Hobby Lobby, a nationwide chain of arts and crafts stores with over 500 stores and 13,000 employees. The other case was brought by Conestoga Wood Specialties, a company that makes wood cabinets and other wood specialty products and has nearly 1,000 employees. The cases will likely be argued before the Court in the spring.

These are just two of over 40 lawsuits brought by bosses at for-profit companies seeking to impose their religious beliefs on their employees and deny them a critical health benefit. These cases raise big questions, like whether a for-profit corporation is a “person” capable of exercising religious belief and whether requiring a company’s health plan to cover birth control amounts to a “substantial burden” on religious exercise.