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Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel

Leila Abolfazli is Counsel in the Health and Reproductive Rights Program at NWLC. She works on a range of issues involving the protection and expansion of reproductive rights at the federal level. Prior to joining the NWLC, Ms. Abolfazli was a Senior Associate at WilmerHale in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of Emory University and Georgetown University Law Center.

My Take

What Happens After Hobby Lobby

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: September 10, 2014 at 01:47 pm

Are you angry yet over the Supreme Court’s Decision in Hobby Lobby?

As part of the Law Center's work, we track the legal challenges to the requirement that health insurance plans cover the full range of contraceptive methods. One of the latest developments is that some of the other for-profit companies that brought lawsuits are getting what they asked for – a permanent exception from having to include the birth control requirement in their health insurance plans. Just last week, a for-profit lumber business got its exemption.

I knew this development was likely because of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, holding that some for-profit companies can use religion to discriminate against their employees. But just because I knew it was coming didn’t stop me from experiencing a whole new level of anger.


An Open Letter to Tennessee, From One Of Your Own

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: May 02, 2014 at 09:54 am

I love Tennessee. It’s where I grew up; running cross country through amazing forests and watching friends develop amazing musical talents. Life in Tennessee is relaxed, the people are so nice, and I relish each visit back to my home state, whether it is to take my kids to the new park downtown or to go Honky Tonkin with my best friend.

But there are times when I really get sad over Tennessee’s future – like refusing to expand Medicaid and efforts to amend the state Constitution in order to attack abortion access. I am only more troubled by the recent news that Tennessee has become the first state to outright criminalize women who illegally use a narcotic drug and experience a bad pregnancy outcome (if the baby being born is “addicted, is harmed, or dies because of the drug”).

Look, I get why people could support this law – they think it could stop drug using during pregnancy. As one bill co-sponsor explained: “we need to help [pregnant mothers] see the seriousness behind the offense and help them get the help they need.”


Today, Supreme Court Considers Law That Protects Abortion Clinic Employees and Patients

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: January 15, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an important case for protecting women’s access to reproductive health services. The case is McCullen v. Coakley, a case challenging a Massachusetts “buffer zone” law. The Massachusetts law simply regulates the conduct of the public by ensuring reproductive health care facilities have a 35-foot radius to keep their doors and driveways unobstructed for patient access.


The Hyde Amendment Hurts Women

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: September 30, 2013 at 09:52 am

Just because something has been policy for many years doesn’t make it a good policy. I’ve got a whole list I could go through (not letting women vote, not letting gay people marry, the whole “separate but equal” thing). Add to that list the Hyde Amendment.

What’s the Hyde Amendment? It is an amendment added to the yearly federal funding bill that bans Medicaid from covering abortions with federal money except in the narrow cases where a woman is a survivor of rape or incest or when her life is endangered. Added 37 years ago by Representative Henry Hyde, this harmful rider has been hurting low income women ever since.


6th Circuit Says Your Boss Can’t Say No to Your Birth Control

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: September 18, 2013 at 01:22 pm

In a unanimous decision in Autocam v. Sebelius, the 6th Circuit held that a for-profit, secular company is not a ‘“person’ capable of ‘religious exercise’” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (RFRA is a federal law that protects an individual’s exercise of religious freedom from substantially burdensome laws where the government did not have a compelling interest in passing the law). Based on this holding, the Autocam companies – Michigan-based manufacturers of auto and medical supplies – can’t bring a RFRA challenge to the Obamacare rule requiring health insurance plans to cover the full range of birth control methods. Oh, and the 6th Circuit held that Autocam’s owners also can’t challenge the rule under RFRA because the birth control requirement is on the company, not the owners.

This means that Autocam’s female employees and dependents will not have access to coverage for the birth control method that’s appropriate for them, without cost sharing. In other words, they finally get to take advantage of this fabulous Obamacare benefit that many of us have been enjoying for a year now.