Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

Birth Control

The Hobby Lobby Decision Takes a Fundamentally Flawed Approach to Reproductive Health

It is hard to underestimate the potential impact of the Supreme Court’s decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on women’s equality. That is the case in which the Court held that some for-profit corporations could refuse to provide health insurance coverage of birth control for their employees despite the federal contraceptive coverage law that required it. The Court’s decision, at heart, is rooted in a very old and very outdated misunderstanding about women. And that is the idea that women’s reproductive health is somehow “extra,” “different,” or “separate.” This fundamentally wrong assumption about women’s reproductive health has been used for ages to take away women’s rights. By reinforcing this dangerous approach to women’s reproductive health, the Court has put all aspects of women’s rights at risk. Here’s how it works: Read more »

Hobby Lobby Made Me Want to Knit a Brick

In the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in June, the Court allowed certain for-profit corporations to get out of complying with the health care law’s birth control benefit, which requires insurance plans to cover birth control without any additional costs.  There were a lot of reactions to the decision’s stunning disregard for women’s health – including our own here at the National Women’s Law Center where we have continued to push for more attention and anger over the issue. Some people were shocked, some people were angry (the consequences of the decision have shown just how much there is to be angry about), and some people wanted to knit.

To protest the decision, the Secular Coalition for America (SCA) asked their supporters to knit bricks to rebuild the wall between church and state. If SCA received  400 bricks their staff would bring them  to the court, if SCA got 800 they would bring them to Congress, and if they got 1,200 they would take them to the White House.  Read more »

Missouri State Representative Thinks a Court Case is the Best Way to Keep his Daughters from Using Birth Control

Earlier this week we got some more insight into the twisted reasoning that some people use to justify attempts to limit women’s access to essential health care. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday in the case Wieland v. Sebelius. The plaintiff, Paul Wieland, would have us believe that this is just like the other cases that have been filed against the rule that insurance plans cover the full range of birth control methods. Except there’s a big difference: Wieland is not the owner of a corporation nor is he representing a religiously affiliated organization. This means that the birth control coverage requirement doesn’t even apply to him. He does not have to do anything differently than he did before the ACA expanded access to contraceptives for millions of women (and that is why the district court dismissed his case). But that’s not stopping Wieland. Read more »

What Happens After Hobby Lobby

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. Read more »

After Hobby Lobby Decision, State Legislators Mobilize to Protect Employees’ Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services

“I’ve never been so fired up about a case before,” a friend recently wrote me, referring to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

My friend is not the only one fired up about the Hobby Lobby decision. According to a recent poll, more than 7 out of 10 U.S. women voters believe that corporations should not be allowed to opt out of a law when they feel it conflicts with their own religious beliefs. And in an interview with Katie Couric, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who penned the Hobby Lobby dissent, said, “Contraceptive protection is something every woman must have access to, to control her own destiny…[Hobby Lobby] has no constitutional right to foist that belief on the hundreds and hundreds of women who work for them who don’t share that belief.” Read more »

Hobby Lobby: A "Perfect Storm" to Galvanize the Public

Although I was expecting a strong public outcry after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, the depth and breadth of the outrage has surprised me. People who have never expressed an interest in women’s issues are posting about it on Facebook and asking me questions about the case. Friends who have a passing interest in reproductive rights have reached out to me to find out what they can do and where they can donate.

I think the reason for this wide-spread outrage is that in the Hobby Lobby decision, several different long-term attacks on individual liberties all come together. Just as three different weather fronts collided to make the 1991 “Perfect Storm” that is the subject of the book and film of the same name, three different “fronts” collide in the Court’s decision as well: Read more »

Sixth Circuit Holds That Non-Profit Organizations Can't Interfere with Employees' Birth Control Coverage

Yesterday, another federal court of appeals [PDF] sided with female employees for whom the Affordable Care Act ensures birth control coverage. In a unanimous decision [PDF] rom a panel of three judges, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request of several non-profit organizations with religious objections to birth control to exempt them from the birth control coverage requirement, even though they are not even required to provide the coverage. The court’s decision means that the female employees and their covered dependents will not lose access to the birth control benefit, despite their bosses’ efforts.

These non-profit organizations are entitled to an “accommodation” for the birth control benefit, which aims to respect religious beliefs while still ensuring that women get the benefit they deserve. Under the “accommodation,” the non-profit organizations simply sign a form telling their insurer that they have religious objections to birth control. Separately, the insurer arranges for the employees to get birth control covered with no cost-sharing.

But these non-profits are challenging the accommodation in court, arguing that it violates their religious beliefs to even sign the form. Read more »

Not Letting Religion Trump Facts or the Court in the Contraceptive Coverage Cases

Last week, the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in two challenges to the contraceptive coverage benefit brought by non-profit organizations with religious objections to contraceptives. And, on Tuesday, a Wyoming district court ruled that a group of non-profit organizations raising the same challenge can’t take the benefit away from their employees while the case moves forward. The argument at the D.C. Circuit and the decision by the Wyoming district court show how the courts are responding to employers’ attempts to let religion trump facts and legal responsibilities of the court.

In each of these cases, the non-profits state objections to contraceptives, sterilization, “abortion-inducing drugs” or “abortifacients,” and any related education and counseling. Wait—what? Despite assertions to the contrary, the ACA does not require any health plan to include coverage for abortion. The birth control benefit requires coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives. By definition, contraceptives prevent pregnancy. That means that none of the FDA-approved contraceptives health plans must cover are abortifacients. In fact, physicians and other health care professionals submitted a brief to the Supreme Court that explains these facts [PDF]. But don’t let facts get in the way of a good story. The media, and even courts, are picking up this inaccurate conflation between contraceptives and abortion—adding to misinformation and deception that is already common when it comes to women’s reproductive health. Read more »

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

You’ve heard about the for-profit companies challenging the birth control coverage benefit. In March, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in 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. A decision in those cases is expected in June.

Meanwhile, non-profits with religious objections to birth control coverage have also challenged the benefit, with over 30 cases currently pending. Those cases are making their way through the courts and, on Thursday, the D.C. Circuit and Sixth Circuit Courts of Appeal will hear oral argument in two sets of non-profit cases.  

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

D.C. Standing Up For Women's Reproductive Health Decisions

My colleague Michelle wrote recently about proactive legislation that state legislators are introducing in order to expand and protect women’s access to reproductive health care services. Here’s one more example: Yesterday, D.C. Council Member Grosso introduced the “Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014.” Like bills introduced in Michigan and New York, this bill will protect employees from discrimination by an employer because of a reproductive health decision, like using birth control or in vitro fertilization.

As Councilmember Grosso explained, “Nationally, there have been a number of disturbing cases of bosses retaliating against employees for their reproductive health care decisions. For example, in Wisconsin, after the state legislature passed a law requiring insurance plans to cover contraception, the Catholic diocese told employees that if they used the benefit, they would be fired. In the past 4 years alone, individuals in California, Texas, Montana, and Indiana have brought discrimination suits against their employers after being fired from their jobs for being pregnant without being married.” Read more »