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 »
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 Wielandv. 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 »
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 businessgot 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 »
“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 »
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 »
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 »
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.
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 »
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.
While attending a conference on creating religious exemptions to civil rights laws, I noticed a theme throughout: a standard plea for “compromise” to accommodate those with religious objections to antidiscrimination rules. And, although I don’t find arguments for religious exemptions for commercial businesses compelling, “compromise” does sound reasonable. The theory is that each side gives a little to get a little. But what does it really mean to “compromise” on antidiscrimination laws because some have religiously-motivated objections to those rules? Here, it seems that “compromise” means giving in and giving up on full equality.
In a case currently pending before the Supreme Court, the arts and crafts company Hobby Lobby and the furniture manufacturer Conestoga Wood Specialties are seeking to be exempt from covering the full range of FDA-approved forms of contraception in their employee health plans. The companies claim a right to engage in sex discrimination by denying their female employees coverage for certain forms of birth control based on the companies’ religious opposition to this basic health care.
Should these companies prevail, their female employees will lose out on this important benefit—while the companies continue to cover the range of basic preventive services for their male counterparts. Moreover, because health insurance is a part of an employee’s compensation for work, female workers will see their overall earnings diminish (their male counterparts will not) and still have to pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket for this basic health care—and often more for the most effective forms of birth control. Or, because of cost, they will either use a less effective form of contraception or forgo it altogether. Read more »